“A mesmerizing debut novel, Once Upon a Mulberry Field tells a heartrending tale of American and South Vietnamese love at a time when both countries were torn apart by war.” I recently discovered C.L. Hoang online in a Facebook group and ordered his new book. Hoang was born in South Vietnam and lived there with his family during the Vietnam War. He came to the US in the 1970s because of the war, and became an engineer, and now an author. In an interview with him posted on MilitaryPress.com, he says:
I started the book as a nostalgia project for my father so that we could capture memories of our family’s earlier life in Saigon, Vietnam, during the war. As I researched that time period to ensure accuracy, I discovered another perspective of the war—as experienced by American service people who fought over there and by their families in the States. I ended up merging these two contrasting points of view, in hopes of providing a more complete picture of that turbulent chapter in the history of both countries. But rather than being a “war book,” Once Upon a Mulberry Field is first and foremost a love story—an ode to the old and the new homelands, and a celebration of the human spirit and the redemptive power of love.
Who can resist a book like that? Not me. I have written before about turning memoir into fiction in order to tell a bigger story. Sometimes the constraints of sticking to a true life story hobble an important message or a bigger picture the author wants to get across. I like how Mr. Hoang wanted to put forth different perspectives of a highly controversial war. For those who don’t know or remember, Vietnam vets were subject to ugly name-calling or worse when they returned home, thanks to discovery of atrocities committed—a complex subject. And who has read personal stories—or any stories—from the Vietnamese side? Read the rest of the interview with C.L. Hoang here in the March 10, 2014, Military Press article: Once Upon a Mulberry Field. Read about the poetic meaning of the book’s title in Huang’s blog post “Mulberry Fields and the Blue Sea.”
I asked C.L. Hoang to tell me a little more about the writing of his book.
“Unfortunately my dad passed away before the book was finished. It was dedicated to him and my mom, who had died before him. My book was to bear witness to their generation who had known war all their lives, from the fight for independence from the French to the struggle against communism. But the book also pays homage to American veterans who served in Vietnam and came home to a hostile political atmosphere.”
Find C.L. Huong and his blog at mulberryfieldsforever.com.