Spring 2013 • Vol. XXXV No. 2 NonfictionApril 1, 2013 |

A Messenger of Ill Tidings

Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc immolates himself in a crowded Saigon intersection. Nine-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc runs naked down a road near Trang Bang. All at once: Saigon and Trang Bang are one stage, 1963 and 1972 the inhale and exhale of one long breath. She runs from his fire. He draws her napalm burns onto himself. This is how collective memory—not personal memory, but a bad symphony of personal memory—works. We sequence the images neither side-by-side nor top-to-bottom; we superimpose them one over the other. Along with the ubiquitous photographs of helicopters touching down, lifting off, and carrying American troops to safety, the photos of Thich Quang Due and Phan Thi Kim Phuc give us the enduring images of the Vietnam War. Historian David Halberstam witnessed Thich Quang Due's immolation firsthand and was, by his own report, forever changed. (His account for the New York Times, buoyed by the infamy of the photo, won a Pulitzer and the George Polk Award.) A str

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Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis’s creative work has appeared in McSweeney’s, AGNI online, Literary Review, Fiction International, and New York Quarterly, among other journals. Currently at work on a novel, he teaches Asian American literature at the University of Maryland. He is a founder of the arts nonprofit the Asian American Literary Review.

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Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc immolates himself in a crowded Saigon intersection. Nine-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc runs naked down a road near Trang Bang. All at once: Saigon and […]

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