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The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War Paperback – August 1, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (August 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140280219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140280210
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

When Nick Ut photographed 9-year-old Kim Phuc running down a road, her body aflame with napalm, he turned a terrified girl into a living symbol of the Vietnam War's horror. Even after the war, the North Vietnamese government made the severely scarred Kim a reluctant poster girl for American atrocities. Although her parents, once relatively prosperous South Vietnamese peasants, were reduced to dire poverty when the state took over her mother's noodle shop, Kim was allowed to receive further medical treatment in Germany, to visit the Soviet Union, and to attend the University of Havana. These privileges did not assuage her spiritual turmoil: Why had she been singled out for fame when so many others suffered and died? Searching for answers, Kim converted to Christianity and in 1992 defected with her husband to Canada, where they now live with their two sons. Canadian author Denise Chong's sensitive biography, which doubles as a fascinating social history of Vietnam during and after the war, captures Kim as a complex woman of powerful religious faith: "It was the fire of bombs that burned my body. It was the skill of doctors that mended my skin. But it took the power of God's love to heal my heart." --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

All you have to do is say "the girl in the picture" and any American who was politically aware during the Vietnam War will conjure up the image of a little Vietnamese girl running down the road, her naked body scorched by napalm, her face contorted in pain. That photograph, taken of a girl named Kim Phuc on June 8, 1972, by Nick Ut of the Associated Press, remains a haunting image of the American war in Vietnam. Canadian writer Chong (The Concubine's Children) now tells Phuc's story in this instructive authorized biography. Tracing Phuc's life both before and after she was nearly killed (at age nine) by a South Vietnamese air force napalm strike gone wrong, Chong unblinkingly presents graphic depictions of the horrors that the war visited on innocent civilians. She finds, however, amidst these tragedies, a redemptive story in Phuc's life, which, thankfully, has a happy ending. Through the heroic efforts of Nick Ut, British correspondent Christopher Wain and others, the girl was taken to an excellent hospital in Saigon. Through 17 operations (in 24 months), an international team of doctors saved her life. Later, after communist authorities mercilessly used her for propaganda purposes, she fled Vietnam. Today, she and her husband are Christians, living in Ontario with their two sons. Although Phuc's entire back remains deeply scarred (keeping her in near constant pain), she works as an unpaid goodwill ambassador for UNESCO and runs her own foundation for child victims of war. Chong's biography, though overly detailed at times, is a well-rendered and affecting life story. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It's a story of almost unremitting suffering.
She has allowed herself to move forward and use her position in life to help better other's lives as well.
It is interesting in the discussion of village life in Viet Nam during the war.
W. Holston

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 77 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The photo of Kim Phuc running in terror from a napalm attack is one of the best-known images of the Vietnam War. This book looks behind the photo to tell the story of an ordinary peasant thrust into the spotlight and how her life was forever changed by the click of a camera. It reveals how Kim Phuc was used as a propoganda tool by the Vietnamese and how she escaped to a new life in Canada. And it offers fascinating insights into how journalists covered the war how that one photo also changed the life of the photographer who took it.
A previous review suggests it is more fiction than fact, yet it's unclear how the reviewer could come to that conclusion about a book that hasn't yet been released. Disclosure: I know Denise Chong and have actually read an early copy. She tears down some of the myths the reviewer suggests are being perpetrated. Chong makes it clear the attack was not done by Americans and was a mistake. And she also raises questions about the role of the American soldier who claimed responsibility for the attack.
This book offers fascinating insights into ordinary life in Vietnam during the war and Kim Phuc's later odyssey through Cuba and Moscow to Canada. During her research trips to Vietnam, Chong's eye for detail, which came across so clearly in "The Concubine's Children," again brings a story to life. The account of the napalm attack itself and Kim's recovery from such horrible burns is a heart-wrenching drama that will bring many readers to tears. This is one of the must-read books of the year.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By on November 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
You don't really enjoy a book like this. It's a story of almost unremitting suffering. I found the story riveting, well written and troubling. Of course, I knew the picture and I'd seen the documentary when I was in England several years ago, but the details in the book and the evident research provide a much deeper understanding.
It is a very human story, the suffering of one girl in particular, but also her family, and she is one of many. The book gives a concise account of the historical background to the bombing. It will serve as a good introduction to those that do not know about these events, and will be useful for visitors to Vietnam.
The author also narrates the stories of members of Kim Phuc's family and their struggle for existence during those hard times. I've been to Vietnam, including Saigon, not far from where the awful atrocity took place, so I feel a closeness to the place. I saw the famous photograph in the American War Crimes Museum (now renamed) in Saigon.
My life in Bali cannot compare to Kim Phuc's, but I understand a little some of her family's difficulties - the paranoid fear of Communism in the 1960s (there was an alleged Communist coup in Indonesia in 1965), the hard work involved in running a small restaurant (I started mine from scratch in 1974 just like Kim's mother did) and the hassles of dealing with officials (the author describes these well).
It is doubly distressing that Kim Phuc was so cruelly used and cheated by others for their own purposes. Governments, officials, journalists. One can only have contempt for them and wish Kim Phuc a better life in Canada.
I would certainly recommend this book to anyone. It has 370 pages and there are several pages of photographs.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on June 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is the life story of Kim Phuc, with supporting coverage of the horrors of Vietnam and the endless legacy of pain and sorrow caused by the war. Kim was captured on film in the devastating news photo form 1972, as she ran naked and screaming from a napalm attack (which turned out to be a friendly-fire accident, to boot). While reading this book, I was unable to stop flipping it over to look at the famous photo on the cover again and again, as writer Denise Chong does an outstanding job of bringing Kim and her story to life. Granted, the book does have a few weaknesses. Chong obviously saw the need to add background information about the war to support Kim's story, though in the attempt to summarize or introduce the issues and politics of the war, Chong's coverage seems simplistic and perfunctory. Also, as Kim's biography progresses, Chong is trying too hard, and inconsistently, to make the book "inspirational," with Kim's inner thoughts and reflections on her ongoing struggles coming across as forced and sappy in places.

But these weaknesses do not damage the overall success of the book, because Kim's life story is definitely compelling, and her postwar struggles are especially informative. We learn about the wartime travails of Kim's middle-class Vietnamese family, culminating in the horrific day when she was injured and barely survived. Kim has suffered through chronic pain and constant health problems stemming from here severe napalm burns. Meanwhile the incompetent new Communist regime in Vietnam used her for years as a pawn in propaganda schemes, and ruined her once successful family.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Julie Balcomb on April 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An inspiring story and a must read if you have any interest in Vietnam , as told through the experiences of a young child and her family exposed to and victims of the War in Vietnam and its aftermath, and ultimately her journey towards a better life.
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