Red Blood, Yellow Skin
The night the Viet Minh attacked our village, they found my father hiding in the Church steeple. They shot him in the neck and pushed him through a window. He landed on a mound of broken glass. One attacker heard him moan and ran over to finish him off. With a machete, he chopped my father’s face into four pieces; the sign of the cross. My father fell silent. I saw his bloody face soon after he died. I was four. The Viet Minh occupied our village and destroyed my peaceful existence.
The French and Viet Minh battles forced my mother and me to flee from place to place. She sought escape from impoverishment through marriage to a rich and dominating widower, another victim of the war. While my stepfather and mother got to know each other in another village, I was left behind to fend for myself, with a little help from my relatives.
We escaped from communist persecution, by moving to South Vietnam in 1954. We settled in a primitive refugee camp in the middle of a forest near Tay Ninh Province, where tiger attacks were common; I was lucky to escape one of them. We sought only peace and security, but found neither.
I broke away from the cruelty of my stepfather, by running away to Saigon when I was thirteen, where I worked at various menial jobs. At seventeen, I was introduced to bars, nightclubs, and Saigon Tea, and was raped by an American serviceman, who I thought was a friend.
I expose the corruption that jailed innocent people, including me, because we could not or would not pay the bribes demanded. I reveal the dark humor associated with the American experience in our land. At eighteen, I fell in love, and moved in with a young American Airman. Two months after our baby was born, he returned to America, and I never heard from him again. I raised my son by myself, against my parent’s demands. Time healed my heart and allowed me to love again, this time to an American Air Force Officer.
This story is about romance, humor, culture, customs, traditions, and family life. It describes the pain, struggle, despair, and violence as I lived it. The story is mine, but it is also an account of Vietnam, not as seen by foreigners on televised images of war and tragedy, but by those of us who were uprooted, displaced, brutalized, and left homeless; it is about our struggle for survival. My Vietnam was frightening but tender; it was tragic but humorous; it was chaotic but beautiful; it was ultimately a contradiction. It was my home; the home that I love and for which I have wept endless tears.
I now live in America, and although I have grown to love my adopted county, sorrow for my homeland has not subsided. My memories of Vietnam are still as vivid as they were when I experienced them.
General William C. Westmoreland and his wife Katherine, after reading my manuscript, wrote, “[this] is a story of courage, compassion, and faith. It is a fascinating account of the Vietnamese peoples’ love of family, strength of character and will to survive unbelievable hardships. Linda B. is now a remarkable and successful woman, and proud to be an American.”
Also, large numbers of people who read my story, gave me powerful written comments, and urged me to publish it for others to read. I’m now working on my second book, titled Survival on the Edge.
Thank you for reading my book, wish me luck, and may God bless you.
LINDA L. T. BAER
NGUYEN THI LOAN