About The Ignorance of Bliss: An American Kid in Saigon by Sandy Hanna:
Sandy Hanna’s memoir of her childhood in Vietnam reveals the young naiveté and protected existence of American military privilege in a foreign country. In The Ignorance of Bliss, this precocious preteen, plopped down in the middle of 1960 Saigon, finds an adventurous life of freedom. But don’t believe for a minute that the young Sandy is a passive child awed by culture shock, gunfire, and timidity. No, here we have an astute survivor aware of the dangers around her who fiercely protects her siblings when she needs to, scrambles from nervous Vietnamese participants of a military coup, and barks orders at an ARVN soldier assigned as her family’s driver. Additionally, she wisely absorbs the mentoring of a servant’s college-age daughter and is deeply informed by an influential American sixth-grade teacher. What we find, further, is a crafty entrepreneur, at times conversing in French and Vietnamese, risking her safety as a child selling wares in a dark bazaar, and accumulating money with a singular, powerful goal in mind all while her distracted and overwhelmed parents remain clueless to her whereabouts. Sandy becomes an alert witness to history, both personal and global, greatly expanding an understanding of the US conflict that soon exploded into the Vietnam War. By watching and stealthily listening in to her beloved dad, the Colonel, and his Vietnamese military counterpart, she learns about the dirty politics of a corrupt leader, the brutal chaos to come, and an impending departure that borders on escape. Ms. Hanna grabs you by the arm and whisks you into the unrestrained and semi-lawless world of 1960 Saigon, where her family spent two intriguing years. Hanna dabs into a rich palette, creating varying perspectives and images of history, cultures, couture, cuisine, sibling adventures, memories and parent recollections, all of which add up to a compelling written documentary.