The focus of this page is cultural and intellectual life in South Vietnam, but there are also works in politics, society, and related subjects. Click here to return to the main bibliography page.
On the VIETNAM WAR, the best bibliography remains that of Edwin Moïse at Clemson University.
- Taylor, K. W. A History of the Vietnamese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. This is the best comprehensive history available in English; the penultimate chapter is about divided Vietnam.
- K. W. Taylor, ed. Voices from the Second Republic of South Vietnam (1967-1975). Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2014. A collection of reflection from mostly former government and military figures.
- Wilcox, Wynn, ed. Vietnam and the West: New Approaches. Ithaca: Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2010. This thematic collection include three articles about the division period and two on the postwar era. There is also a clear and handy introduction by the editor, who discusses three interpretative approaches to Vietnamese relations with the West: (a) Western impact and Vietnamese response, (b) tradition and modernity, and (c) autonomous and local history.
BIOGRAPHIES & MEMOIRS
- Chân Không Cao Ngoc Phuong. Learning True Love: How I Learned and Practiced Social Change in Vietnam. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1993. An autobiographical account of a Buddhist nun about her activism in South Vietnam, plus a short section on her postwar life in America.
- Elliott, Duong Van Mai. The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family. Oxford University Press, 1999. Long and readable family biography that which includes several long chapters relevant to the South Vietnamese society during the war.
- Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Dung. Phượng Vẫn Nở Bên Trời Hà Nội. Arlington, VA: Tổ Hợp Xuất Bản Miền Đông Hoa Kỳ, 2005. Memoir of upbringing in Hanoi before 1954.
- —————————-. Sài Gòn Nắng Nhớ Mưa Thương. Arlington, VA: Tổ Hợp Xuất Bản Miền Đông Hoa Kỳ, 2005. This memoir follows the previous one about the author’s life in Republican South until 1971, when she remarried and came to the U.S.
- Nha Ca. Mourning Headband for Hue, translated by Olga Dror. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014. English translation – plus an introduction by the translator – of a classic account by a well-known South Vietnamese writer about the city of Hue during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
- Xuan Phuong and Danièle Mazingarbe. Ao Dai: My War, My Country, My Vietnam. Great Neck, NY: EMQUAD International, Ltd., 2004. This memoir is different from most on this list because it is about the communist side. At this time (2015), it remains one of the best available books in English on the subject (if not the best) about the experience of an ordinary Vietnamese on the side of communist revolution since the 1940s. The book includes a perceptive foreword from Frederick Z. Brown. He notes that her account leaves out “the sufferings of those Vietnamese on the losing side after 1975,” and “nor do we sense the pain of Hanoi’s forced ‘reeducation camps’ that embittered the South Vietnamese and made post-1975 reconciliation difficult.” On the other hand, it tells several compelling stories about her divided family during the war and her reunions with them in Europe and the U.S. in the 1990s. It also points out Xuân Phương’s difficulties regarding the Communist Party after 1954 and also after 1975.
- Bội Trân. “Tạ Tỵ (1922-2004), Người Tiên Phong trong Mỹ Thuật Việt Nam.” An overview from the late Boitran Huynh-Beattie about arguably the most important twentieth-century Vietnamese painter.
- Huỳnh Hữu Ủy. Nghệ Thuật Tạo Hình Việt Nam Hiện Đại. Westminster, CA: Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association, 2008. This is the most comprehensive work on the subject of modern art, mostly painting, especially by South Vietnamese artists. The illustrations are very nicely reproduced. Though listed in WorldCat, it surprisingly neither appears in Google Books nor is available on Amazon (as of July 2015). It does not even appear on the Wikipedia page about the author! This fine volume deserves wider circulation among libraries and serious readers.
- Huynh-Beattie, Boitran. “Saigonese Art during the War: Modernity versus Ideology.” In Cultures at War: The Cold War and Cultural Expression in Southeast Asia, edited by Tony Day and Maya Hian Ting Liem. Ithaca: SEAP Publications, 2010. 81-102. This article is based on a chapter of the author’s dissertation. It discusses several important differences between Saigon and Hanoi regarding dissidence during the divided period, and explains the South Vietnamese art scene in the context of war.
- Ang, Claudine. “Regionalism in Southern Narratives of Vietnamese History: The Case of the ‘Southern Advance’ (Nam Tien)”. Journal of Vietnamese Studies 8:3 (Summer 2013). 1-26. The article compares perspectives on Nam Tiến, including those in North Vietnam but especially those of historians and intellectuals in South Vietnam. Implications to the latter interpretations included southern exceptionalism and RVN’s claim to territories controlled by the DRV at the time.
- Trần Văn Chánh. “Chương Trình Giáo Dục và Sách Giáo Khoa thời Việt Nam Cộng Hòa.” Tạp Chí Nghiên Cứu và Phát Triển 7-8 (2014): 184-203. Also at Nam Kỳ Lục Tỉnh (October 27, 2014).
- Dror, Olga. “Raising Vietnamese: War and Youth in the South in the early 1970s.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 44:1 (February 2013): 74-99. This article examines two magazines for children, including one published by Nguyễn Vỹ.
- Gadkar-Wilcox, Wynn. “Existentialism and Intellectual Culture in South Vietnam.” The Journal of Asian Studies 73:2 (May 2014): 377-395. Existentialism was popular among a number of intellectual and artistic circles in the urban South. As in Europe, it might mean different things for different people. This article considers two important reasons for its advocacy among several intellectual figures.
- Jamieson, Neil L. Understanding Vietnam. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. A classic on twentieth-century Vietnamese intellectual history – from an anthropologist, no less. There’s an emphasis on noncommunist thought but, like most classics, a good deal more.
- Marr, David G. Vietnamese Tradition on Trial 1920-1945. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. The period in discussion is of course well before South Vietnam, but this classic of intellectual history must be read by researchers on social thought and literature in SVN. It’s like Marx or even John Rawls: whether you agree with it, you need to engage its argument in one way or another.
- Marr, David G. “Concepts of ‘Individual’ and ‘Self’ in Twentieth-Century Vietnam.” Modern Asian Studies 34:4 (October 2000). A perceptive and excellent survey of shifts in modern Vietnamese understanding of these intertwined concepts. The major drawback is the lack of discussion about South Vietnam, but it’s all the more reason for future researchers to build on this article and fill in the blanks.
- Peycam, Philippe M. F. The Birth of Vietnamese Political Journalism: Saigon 1916-1930. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. Although it is about a period well before 1954-1975, the book offers an interpretation of journalistic and intellectual pluralism in colonial Saigon in the context of the public square. The conclusion also draws continuity to South Vietnam.
- Schafer, John C. Võ Phiến and the Sadness of Exile. Southeast Asia Publications: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University, 2006. At the time of publication, this book-length study of a prominent South Vietnamese writer (living in the U.S. since 1975) was the first major study in English of just about any twentieth-century Vietnamese author.
- Tai, Hue-Tam Ho. Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992. Another important book on intellectual history prior to South Vietnam. Focusing on the 1920s and the radical revolutionary Nguyễn An Ninh, it offers a sophisticated interpretation and also discusses student activism, debates on women, and other political and intellectual issues.
- Hồ Nam and Vũ Uyên Giang. 100 Khuôn Mặt Văn Nghệ Sĩ. Place unknown: Đất Sống, 2006.
- Lê Bảo Hoàng. Tác Giả Việt Nam: Vietnamese Authors. Miami: Songvan Magazine, 2005. A handy if basic reference of Vietnamese writers, especially from South Vietnam. Notwithstanding its somewhat rudimentary form, the book can provide a nice start on tracking down the works of a particular author. The compiler is better known by his pen name Luân Hoán
- Mai Thảo. Mười Lăm Nhà Văn Nhả Thơ Việt Nam. Westminster, CA: Văn Khoa, 1985. A prominent South Vietnamese pens these fifteen “portraits” of his fellow writers of fiction and poetry. The scenes fluctuate between Republican Saigon and postwar Vietnam and America.
- Nguyễn Đình Toàn. Bông Hồng Tạ Ơn: 234 Tác Giả & Nghệ Sĩ Việt Nam, 2 volumes. Westminster, CA: Self-published, 2012. Authored by a former cultural figure in South Vietnam, these volumes include observations and anecdotes about 234 Vietnamese figures in literature and the arts.
- Nguyễn Thiên Thụ. Văn Học Sử Việt Nam: Văn Học Hiện Đại, 4 volumes. Ottawa: Gia Hội, 2006. The author of this four-volume history of modern Vietnamese literary history taught at several colleges in South Vietnam and published four books with Lửa Thiêng during 1971-1974. The arrangement of contents could be somewhat confusing, but they offer a comprehensive if clearly anticommunist perspective on Vietnamese literature. There is also a section on Vietnamese literature in the diaspora after 1975.
- Tạ Tỵ. Mười Khuôn Mặt Văn Nghệ Hôm Nay. Saigon: Lá Bối, 1971. Reprint, Los Alamitos, CA: Xuân Thu, 1991.
- Vo Phien. Literature in South VIetnam 1954-1975. Melbourne: Vietnamese Language & Culture Publications, 1992. An English version of Văn Học Miền Nam Tổng Quan (Westminster, CA: Văn Nghệ, 1986).
- Võ Phiến. Văn Học Miền Nam, 7 vols. Westminster, CA: Văn Nghệ, 1986-1999. Not all people, including some former South Vietnamese writers, may agree with the judgments in this work. All the same, it is required reading for students of literature from the Republican South.
- Vũ Hạnh and Nguyễn Ngọc Phan. Văn Học Thời Kỳ 1945-1975 ở Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh. HCM City: Văn Hóa Saigon, 2008. Although the tone is less hostile than official criticism of South Vietnamese literature during the 1970s and 1980s, the book continues to react with aversion to South Vietnamese noncommunist literary figures and their works.
A number of websites have been created to preserve the works of South Vietnamese writers and artists.
- Chi, Paul Van. Catholic Choral Music in Vietnam 1945-1975. Portland, OR: Pastoral Press, 2002. A history of the topic from a Catholic priest-composer who conducted some interviews for the book. There is also a Vietnamese-language edition of this book.
- Gibbs, Jason. “Điệu Rumba trên dòng Cửu Long: Bolero – một dạng ca khúc phổ thông Việt Nam” [Rumba on the Mekong: Bolero as a Vietnamese Popular Song Form], translated by Nguyễn Trương Quý. Talawas, 2005.
- Gibbs, Jason. “Tình yêu và khát vọng nơi ranh giới: những ca khúc ở hai bờ vĩ tuyến 17” [Love and Longing at the Border: Songs on Both Sides of the 17th parallel], translated by Nguyễn Trương Quý. Talawas, 2005.
- Gibbs, Jason. See other writings by Gibbs.
- Norton, Barley. Songs for the Spirits: Music and Mediums in Modern Vietnam. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009.
- Norton, Barley. “Vietnamese Popular Song in 1968: War, Protest and Sentimentalism.” In Music and Protest in 1968, ed., Beate Kutschke and Barley Norton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. 97-118. This article considers and compares music from the DRV and Trịnh Công Sơn in the RVN.
- Phạm Duy, ed. Tìm Hiểu Nhạc Phạm Duy: Pham Duy’s Study. 2007. This online resource is a collection of materials, written mostly by others, that were gathered by Phạm Duy himself. He provides a brief foreword.
- “Việt Nam Quê Hương Ngạo Nghễ”: Tưởng Niệm Người Du Ca Muôn Thuở. Kent, WA: 2011. This is a collection of recollections and memories about the late Nguyễn Đức Quang, a leading figure of the Du Ca movement in the RVN, from his friends.
- Demery, Monique Brinson. Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam’s Madame Nhu. New York: PublicAffairs, 2013. First book-length account – and sympathetic – about the most colorfully controversial figure in the Diệm regime. Although the evidence is thin, the book re-opens an old topic that deserves further reexamination with archival materials in Vietnam.
- Nguyen-Marshall, Van. “Student Activism in Time of War: Youth in the Republic of Vietnam, 1960s-1970s”. Journal of Vietnamese Studies 10:2 (Spring 2015). 43-81. A consideration of political diversity among student associations in South Vietnam within theoretical context of “civil society.”
- Noseworthy, William B. “Lowland Participation in the Irredentist ‘Highlands Liberation Movement’ in Vietnam, 1955-1975.” In The Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies 6:1 (2013). This article on FULRO (le Font Unifie de Lutte des Races Opprimees) uses FULRO documents to shed light on this highlands movement. It should be noted that FULRO continued to be an issue for the postwar government and kept the interest of certain anticommunist segments in the diaspora during the pre-reform period.
- Hansen, Peter. “Bắc Di Cư: Catholic Refugees from the North of Vietnam, and Their Role in the Southern Republic, 1954–1959.” The Journal of Vietnamese Studies 4:3 (2009).
- Keith, Charles. Catholic Vietnam: A Church from Empire to Nation. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2012. Focus is on the late colonial era, but also a section on consequences and implications for South Vietnam.