William Joiner Institute Under Siege


Extra! Extra!!  David vs Goliath!!!

In 1995, when reading my paperback copy of The Sorrow of War, by the North Vietnamese veteran and novelist Bao Ninh, I would fall into a trance, feel as if I were floating above my bed. What was happening, I did not know. Several months later, traveling in Southeast Asia, I invented excuses to not locate Ninh.

Once home in New York I purchased the book in hardback; at the sight of Ninh’s dust jacket photo I saw again the faces of enemy soldiers my platoon had hunted down, and who’d hunted us. That night I dreamt my platoon was trapped, out of ammo, trying desperately to escape.

In the winter of 1998  I sent Bao Ninh a hard copy letter. Two months later I received his reply: “On the occasion of Christmas and the New Year, I am very glad to send you our warmest regard from Vietnam. I wish you and your family a new year full of happiness. I hope we will soon meet each other in Hanoi.”

Two years later, I decided to attend the annual William Joiner Institute Writer’s Workshop, located at U Mass Boston. On the first day, while seated in a packed auditorium, forty meters to my right, I noticed five Vietnamese men waiting to be introduced to the audience. Their remarks concluded, single file, they headed back to the exit at the rear of the room. Instantly I jumped up, and pushed past a gauntlet of outstretched legs.

“Excuse me…excuse me…” I said, following my target.  “Bao Ninh!” I stammered as he neared the…

Read more