Young doctor's voice outlasts war
<b>Young doctor's voice outlasts war</b><b>Last Night I Dreamed of Peace</b> contains two remarkable stories. It is foremost the diary of Dang Thuy Tram, a young North Vietnamese doctor who chronicles her experiences caring for civilians and soldiers during the height of the Vietnam War. But almost as compelling is the tale of how the diary came to be published 35 years after Thuy's death.
A gifted writer, Thuy eloquently describes her feelings and opinions on war and the destruction it leaves in its wake. She witnesses this firsthand as she treats the wounded from her mobile medical clinic in the jungle, and her diary entries reflect alternating moods of hope and despair about the war. She criticizes the Communist Party for its reluctance to accept her as a member because she is a woman. And she speaks of the sadness of unrequited love, with frequent references to her mysterious first love, a Viet Cong guerilla she calls M. Thuy made her final diary entry on June 20, 1970. I am no longer a child. I have grown up, she writes. But somehow at this moment, I yearn deeply for Mom's caring hand. . . . Come to me, squeeze my hand, know my loneliness, and give me the love, the strength to prevail on the perilous road before me. Shortly after, Thuy, 27, died from a gunshot wound to the forehead during an American raid on her clinic. Thuy's diary came to be published through an amazing series of events, described in detail in the book's introduction. An American lawyer, Fred Whitehurst, was serving with a military detachment, assigned to comb through captured enemy documents and burn those with no military value. Holding Thuy's cigarette packet-sized diary over a fire, Whitehurst was stopped by his interpreter, who said, Don't burn this one, Fred. It has fire in it already. Whitehurst saved the diary and kept it in a file cabinet for more than three decades before returning it to Thuy's family in Hanoi in 2005. Published first in Vietnam, the diary became a sensation. Now available in English, <b>Last Night I Dreamed of Peace</b> is enabling Americans to better understand the impact of the Vietnam War through the eyes of one extraordinary young woman. <i>John T. Slania is a journalism professor at Loyola University in Chicago.</i>