“Few people understand the centrality of the Vietnam War to our situation as much as Christian Appy."
The critically acclaimed author of Patriots offers profound insights into Vietnam’s place in America’s self-image.
How did the Vietnam War change the way we think of ourselves as a people and a nation? Christian G. Appy, author of the widely praised oral history of the Vietnam War Patriots, now examines the relationship between the war’s realities and myths and its impact on our national identity, conscience, pride, shame, popular culture, and postwar foreign policy.
Drawing on a vast variety of sources from movies, songs, and novels to official documents, media coverage, and contemporary commentary, Appy offers an original interpretation of the war and its far-reaching consequences. Authoritative, insightful, sometimes surprising, and controversial, American Reckoning is a fascinating mix of political and cultural reporting that offers a completely fresh account of the meaning of the Vietnam War.
Appy (Patriots), a University of Massachusetts historian who specializes in the Vietnam War, offers his assessment of that conflict's multifaceted legacy in the United States. In a wide-ranging, insightful book-length essay, Appy writes confidently and convincingly to support his main theory: that the way the war was fought and its outcome put an indelible dent in the idea of American exceptionalism. The war, he argues, "shattered the central tenet of American national identity the broad faith that the United States is a unique force for good in the world, superior not only in its military and economic power, but in the quality of its government and institutions, the character and morality of its people, and its way of life." Appy examines how the U.S. fought the war and interprets the main cultural and political events since the war's end through the lens of its failure. He scrutinizes and interprets political machinations, as well as reportage, literature, film, and television. Appy successfully conveys the shameful, difficult, and traumatic homecoming given to the nation's 2.8 million Vietnam veterans in a book that poses a distinct challenge to those who still believe in American exceptionalism.
This book is a difficult but important read. It forces the reader to reckon with some of the uglier remnants of Vietnam that subtly persist to this day.