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Book Discussion: A Rift in the Earth: Art, Memory, and the Fight for a Vietnam War Memorial

Date & Time

Sep. 13, 2017
11:00am – 12:00pm ET
A Rift in the Earth: Art, Memory, and the Fight for a Vietnam War Memorial


6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center


The Vietnam War era was one of the most contentious periods in recent American history, spurring clashes across the country and undermining the confidence of many citizens in their government. After the war, a new controversy emerged surrounding the question of how to honor those who fought. In his new book, acclaimed author and Vietnam War veteran James Reston, Jr. brings to life the battle of words and political machinations triggered by the decision to build a memorial on the National Mall.

Intertwining art, politics, and patriotism, A Rift in the Earth centers on the 1981 design competition for the memorial, which was won by Maya Lin, a 21-year-old undergraduate student. Today, Lin’s wall at the centerpiece of the memorial is one of Washington’s most revered landmarks – but, as Reston powerfully demonstrates, this outcome was far from a foregone conclusion.

-- Read a recent review from The New York Times here.

-- Read an op-ed by James Reston, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 3: "Get Ready for the Next Round in the Battle Over the Vietnam War"

Hosted By

History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program strives to make public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, to facilitate scholarship based on those records, and to use these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more

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