Deborah Kalb: What inspired you to write Year of the Dog, which focuses on the Vietnam War and its legacy?
Deborah Paredez: A couple of things. The first thing was a lifelong obsession with the legacies of the Vietnam War, especially in Latino communities. My father was a Mexican immigrant, and he got his citizenship papers just in time for his draft notice.
When he returned from Vietnam, it was not talked about, but it took up space in the household. I began writing about it to fill the void. This was the book I was meant to write.
Also, I remember as a kid that because it wasn’t talked about, I would pore over photographs and snapshots from Vietnam, thinking maybe if I look, I’ll get some answers. It was part of the archive of my understanding of the war.
The war was hyper-documented through iconic images we have, and simultaneously, there’s so much we have to [undo] because we assume we know it.
1. Listen to or read the interview with Kim Phúc
2. Read the section on Kim Phúc by Deborah Paredez (Pages 57-76)
3. Pick ONE of the following topics and discuss how Paredez uses different poetic tactics to share the voice of Kim Phúc and show:
.the horror of napalm attacks in Vietnam (pages 58-61)
.different reactions and effects of the iconic photograph by Nick UT (pages 63-69)
.healing through the perspective of a father-daughter relationship (Page 71)
.reflections on being a survivor of the war (Pages 73-76)
OPTION TWO (Designed by Professor Ramsey Scott)
Write a poem that includes one or more of the following:
.description of a family photograph;
.reference to a family holiday tradition or ritual of some kind;
.use of a punctuation mark as a metaphorical figure;
.lastly, you might experiment with enjambment–that is, with ideas that run from one line, to the next, drawing the reader down the length of the poem in a search for resolution or completion (which may, or may not, arrive).
(Each of the above appears in Deborah Paredez’s book of poems; look for them as you enjoy reading her work.)