Book Review: Red Blood, Yellow Skin: A Young Girl’s Survival in War-Torn Vietnam by Linda L.T. Baer

Red Blood, Yellow Skin is the story of a young girl’s survival in war-torn Vietnam during the First Indochina War between France and Vietnam, the civil war between North and South Vietnam, and the later American involvement in the Vietnam War. Linda Baer was born Nguyen Thi Loan, in the village of Tao Xa, Thai Binh Province, in North Vietnam in 1947. When she was four years old, the Viet Minh attacked her village and killed her father, leaving Loan and her mother to fend for themselves. Seeking escape from impoverishment, her mother married a rich and dominating widower who was cruel to his free-spirited and mischievous stepdaughter. Loan found solace in the company of animals and insects and escaped into the branches of trees.

In 1954, her family chose to relocate to South Vietnam, rather than live under the yoke of communist North Vietnam. When Loan was thirteen, she ran away to Saigon to flee the cruelty of her stepfather and worked at menial jobs to help her family. At seventeen, she was introduced to bars, nightclubs, and Saigon Tea. At eighteen, she dated and lived with a young American airman.Two months after their baby was born, the airman returned to America, and Loan never heard from him again. She raised their son by herself. However, time healed her heart, and she eventually found true love in a young air force officer, whom she married and accompanied to America in 1971.

Red Blood, Yellow Skin is a story of romance, culture, traditions, and family. It describes the pain, struggle, despair, and violence as Loan lived it. The story is hers, but it is also an account of Vietnam of those who were uprooted, displaced, brutalized, and left homeless. It is about this struggle to survive and her extraordinary triumph over adversity that Baer writes.

Linda Baer was born Nguyen Thi Loan, in a small village in North Vietnam. Her family relocated to South Vietnam in 1954. She spent most of her youth in Saigon, where she met her husband. She followed him to America in 1971 and became an American citizen in 1973. She currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina, where she is a successful businesswoman.

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My rating: ★★★★☆

A story of remarkable resilience.

Though aware of the Vietnam War, I’d never before read about it willingly mainly because, well, I dislike war. Then again, who else did? But when I saw Red Blood, Yellow Skin by Linda L.T. Baer in Net Galley I didn’t hesitate to read it.

History books only showed the number of casualties, the dates when the war started and when it ended. History books tell the events leading to the war and its aftermath. But what I wanted to read was the account of someone who suffered the devastation firsthand, not the cold facts and statistics of a historian.  How the people continued to live their daily life in spite of the war. Red Blood, Yellow Skin delivered both to me.

There’s a lot to like about this story. More than the war, this book’s about perseverance, hard work, family, and love; it also tackles the issues of domestic violence, rape, and death. I can only imagine the hardship the author went through writing this. Family and friends drop dead like flies. Hard enough to deal with grief associated with the passing of loved ones without the war causing it, how much more if the war is the cause?

But people do move on. As hard as it is, we must. Linda proved that moving on is possible. That’s what I learned from this book and I’m glad I chose to read it.

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