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Author Event: Brian M. Biggs - Friday, March 13
Join Bookshop Benicia and co-host Benicia Literary Arts in welcoming author Brian M. Biggs for his author talk, book reading, and signing of his Vietnam War memoir, Prove My Soul, (Hellgate Press, 2019).
Date: Friday March 13, 7:00 pm. This is a free event.
About the book:
From 1966-1967, Brian M. Biggs served a unique tour of duty in Vietnam as a Marine Civic Action Officer, an assignment that included teaching English to elementary school teachers in the village of Hoa My—a life-changing experience that developed cherished friendships which have lasted to this day.
“For me,” he writes, “it was a meal of Bun Bo soup served on the school desks of Hoa My Elementary School that swept the Vietnamese teachers into my heart and mind.” His three return trips to Vietnam in 2001, 2004, and 2006, allowed those friendships to flourish. Those visits also unraveled a mystery born out of the chaos and confusion that was the Vietnam War. A mystery that mistakenly cast him as a spy for the South Vietnamese government and brought to light the role he played in the fate of one of the teachers suspected of being Vietcong.
About the Author:
Brian M. Biggs attended the University of Washington on a football scholarship (this included a trip to the 1964 Rose Bowl) and majored in Theatre. He ran the Theatre Program at Franklin High School and Jefferson Performing Arts High School, both in Portland, Oregon. He was also Executive Director of Young Musicians & Artists for twenty-two years, a performing and visual arts resident summer program held at Willamette University, now in its fifty-fourth year. His stories, poems, essays, and photographs are published in Crab Orchard Review, Perfume River Poetry, Brave on the Page, Oberon Poetry Magazine, and Stone Path Review, among others. He lives with his wife, Vicki, in Oregon City, Oregon, on five acres. Vicki tends to her two horses; Brian writes and tends to his garden. They both love on their black lab, Boo. Learn more at http://brianmbiggs.blogspot.com/.
What Others Are Saying about Prove My Soul:
“In PROVE MY SOUL, Marine Lieutenant Brian M. Biggs takes us to the front lines, not of a shooting war, but of the battle for the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people. The story that Biggs pieces together straddles decades, and it is full of wry humor and unintended consequences. It is the story of Biggs’ persistent effort to breach the barriers of language and cultural differences, and to understand what really happened inside the fog of war. Biggs is an honest narrator with a big heart, his prose marches smartly along, and Prove My Soul gives us a remarkable look at a seldom seen side of the Vietnam War.”
—Stevan Allred, author of The Alehouse at the End of the World
“PROVE MY SOUL is a vivid new look at an American veteran's relationship with Vietnam and the war he was swept up in more than 50 years ago. This is not a tale about mighty global forces clashing in a jungle. Rather it is the story about one man determined to make sense of it all—a half-baked war, unlikely friendships, and a lifelong enchantment with Vietnam and all its complexities. Come for the soul-searching and stay for the food. You can't read this book without wanting to finish it off with a big bowl of noodles!”
—Wendy Willis is a poet and essayist living in Portland, Oregon.
Her second book of poems, A Long Late Pledge, won the DorothyBrunsman Poetry Prize. Her first book of poems, Blood Sisters of the Republic, was published by Press 53 in 2012. Her latest book is These Are Strange Times My Dear: Field Notes from the Republic
“Marine Lieutenant Brian M. Biggs served in Vietnam as a motor transport officer, and ran his unit’s Civic Action Program. He built additional classrooms for an over-crowded school, taught English, and made Vietnamese friends who would welcome him back into their lives 34 years later. This is the story of those friendships, and of the richly rewarding return trips that revealed the dark complications for the villagers that came from having a friend in the US Marines. There are many memoirs of the Vietnam war; PROVE MY SOUL is a tender and illuminating story of healing and connection.”
—Joanna Rose is the author of Little Miss Strange
“Most American soldiers had little human contact with Vietnamese. But soldiers in Civic Action Teams were the exception, often deployed to teach English or to bring medical care into the countryside. In the midst of war, some of them found friends. Lieutenant Brian M. Biggs’ memoir is a portrayal of kindness both in his wartime past and his return visits as a 60-year old veteran.”
—John Balaban, author of Remembering Heaven's Face
“Victory, that glorious hoped-for result in war! It’s not what comes to mind when contemplating the American military struggle in Vietnam. However, in PROVE MY SOUL, former Marine Lieutenant Brian M. Biggs records an experience of personal growth and vision beyond the fiery overkill, political agony and moral depression of the war years in Southeast Asia. At the heart of Biggs’ story is a lesson in the basics of fruitful and redeeming human contact. PROVE MY SOUL is an exemplary expression of the power of respectful contact between cultures and individual human beings.”
—Harold Johnson, author of The Fort Showalter Blues, a novel, and two books of poetry: Article. II. The Gallery and Citizenship
“At the University of Washington in the ’60s, Brian M. Biggs was a different kind of dude, playing football and majoring in drama. But the Marines sent him to Vietnam and asked him to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of Vietnamese people. Now, five decades later, the story of his tour of duty and his travels back to Vietnam to reconnect with his friends will win the hearts and minds of readers.”
—Larry Colton, author of Goat Brothers, Counting Coup, No Ordinary Joes, and Southern League
“For me, the book brought me closer to Eric as I remember him...as if he was there in front of me. I felt more at peace in reading your story than I have in a long, long time. Thank you.”
—Charles Barnes, whose brother Eric died while on patrol in Vietnam
“The book is so fascinating, so well-written—exciting, sensuous. All the sounds, smells, and tastes...And the way you put it together, really a great book!”
—David Smith English, Artistic Director of the Clackamas Repertory Theatre, Oregon City, OR
“Your book allowed me to relate to the change that occurs in long-time relationships. And how things of importance at one time in life take a back seat to what is important in the current moment.”
>—Ron Kotecki, former Marine
“I found it to be inspiring and insightful. Indeed, your Vietnam experience is unlike any other I’ve read and, like yourself, I’ve continued to consume all literature about that war and that period in our history. It is clear that you lived the idea of trying ‘to win the hearts and minds’ of the Vietnamese people.”
—Bill Britton, poet, teacher, and former Marine