If you’re new ’round here, one thing you need to know is that I… am a PBS junkie. People, I can binge watch documentaries like some of you watch Game of Thrones. (I’ve never even seen Game of Thrones.) Seriously, though, documentaries have gotten me though long nights with sick kids, batches and batches of laundry, first and last trimesters of pregnancy, and never-ending teacher tasks. I’m a little Masterpiece Theater, a little Frontline, and a LOT American Experience. I heartAmerican Experience.
Also, I love books. I think literature spurs personal growth, that we so love To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn and The Scarlett Letter and all things Jane Austen because they teach us about ourselves, and in so doing, shape us and make us better. Who doesn’t find themselves somewhat improved for knowing Atticus’ advice to Scout or for an escapade with Tom Sawyer? Who wouldn’t benefit from seeing the world from a different time and place?
That’s why I’m so, so excited to share not one, but two of my teacher favs with you. And you’re gonna love me lots and lots because lit and film intertwined is like teacher candy. Here they are:
Inside Out and back again is a novel-in-verse about a young Vietnamese girl, Ha, whose father, a South Vietnamese soldier, is missing in action in the Vietnam war. When the North Vietnamese troops sweep south, like so many in April of 1975, Ha and her family become refugees. With no safe return to their homeland and their nation’s flag no longer representative of a valid government, the family finds themselves in limbo. Other countries are not excited about the influx of so many foreigners. After first being turned away from hope, Ha’s family finds themselves in a tent city and then later sponsored and allowed to resettled in America. The story highlights the beauty of Vietnam, the family’s flight, and their struggle to resettle in America. It’s a PERFECT historical fiction tale to relate to today’s events, but that is not all. No, that is not all!
As a whole host of information from the Vietnam era becomes declassified, filmmakers and historians alike are choosing to delve again into this period of our nation’s history. PBS, of course, is at the forefront of some fantastic portrayals. In 2015, Mark Samels produced a documentary about America’s last days in Vietnam. It’s entirely riveting. Depending on the age of your students, you may be able to show the entire film. (I show only large clips to mine because there are some images I feel are pretty graphic for 6th grade.) You can click the photo below to visit the website and view clips.
Oh, but friends, last year, the documentary warrior, Ken Burns, did one of his marathon documentaries about Vietnam. If you missed it, it is MUST see! The film explores the depth of the conspiracy to deceive the American public about our failures in Vietnam, which spanned presidential administration after administration of both major American political parties. The trauma of our involvement in this war resulted in furthering the civil unrest of that era and left many Americans on either side of a great and terrible divide. It spurred civil disobedience, some violence on the part of protestors and law enforcement, and call after call for civility, all of which left our country reeling from divisiveness. (Sound familiar?). Binge. Watch. I would. Click below to visit the documentary site.