The Ignorance of Bliss: An American Kid in Saigon

The Ignorance of Bliss: An American Kid in Saigon

by Sandy Hanna


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“Very early in my life I became a self-appointed spy.”

The Ignorance of Bliss tells the true story of ten-year-old Sandy, who moves with her American military family to Saigon, Vietnam where her father, the Colonel, serves as a military advisor to the South Vietnamese Army.

In 1960s Saigon, Sandy finds a world of crushing poverty and extraordinary beauty; a world of streets, villas, and brothels, where politics and intrigue reside between plot and counterplot. Blissfully living a life of French decadence, Sandy maneuvers between coups, spies, bombings, corruption, and scandal as she and her thirteen-year-old brother, Tom, run an illicit baby powder and Hershey bar business on the black market and live a life of school, scouts, dance parties, and movies at the underground theater.

When the Colonel’s counterpart, Colonel Le Van Sam, delivers an expose on the current ruling Diem regime, Sandy finds that her constant spying on her father’s activities has brought her face to face with the reality of Vietnam and the anti-American sentiment that pervades it. This coming-of age story takes place in a turbulent country striving for nationalism, giving the reader a stunning look into the life of military dependents living abroad and the underlying ignorance that surrounded a little understood time in history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781682617946
Publisher: Post Hill Press
Publication date: 01/15/2019
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 475,606
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

A resident of New York City and Lambertville, New Jersey, Sandy Hanna grew up in Saigon, South Vietnam and has been telling her story about that experience all of her life. She is an artist and a writer. Graduating from University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a MEd, with a comprehensive in the Biology of Cognition, her undergraduate degree is from Knox College in Interdisciplinary programs in Science and Literature. She also spent a year studying design at the California Institute of the Arts with post graduate studies at Wharton. She was a designer of children’s play spaces, Williamstown Children’s Museum, Sesame Place a joint venture between CTW and Busch Entertainment and facilities for handicapped children, as well as a marketing director and consultant for a variety of diverse industries; children’s museums, theme parks, modular construction, etc. Her passion, however, is one as a storyteller.

Table of Contents

Preface 1

Part I

Chapter 1 Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down 11

Chapter 2 As the World Turns 26

Chapter 3 Destination Saigon 36

Chapter 4 The Essence of Lemons 47

Chapter 5 The American Community School 54

Chapter 6 Je Suis American! 59

Chapter 7 Le Cercle Sportif 66

Chapter 8 Crickets in Sheltered Places 73

Chapter 9 Rue Tu Do 80

Chapter 10 Mine Fields, Scouting, and Baseball 86

Chapter 11 An Affair in Dà Lat 96

Chapter 12 Little Brother Ngô Dinh Nhu 109

Chapter 13 The 704th Depot 116

Chapter 14 The Election (November 8, 1960) 124

Part II

Chapter 15 The Underground Theater 135

Chapter 16 Baby Powder and Hershey Bars 147

Chapter 17 No Good Girl 154

Chapter 18 Lady Byrd and the Texan (May 1961) 167

Chapter 19 Rest and Relaxation 175

Chapter 20 Black Market Daze 180

Chapter 21 South of the Clouds 194

Chapter 22 Diêm's Birthday Parade 203

Chapter 23 The Redhead 210

Chapter 24 Long Life for One Hundred Years-Tet (February 9, 1961) 222

Chapter 25 Stay-at-Home Orders 229

Part III

Chapter 26 Brinks Bomb 237

Chapter 27 Vichy Girls 245

Chapter 28 City of Rumors and Spies 255

Chapter 29 Palace Bombing (1962) 264

Chapter 30 The Mars Box 270

Chapter 31 Money Laundering 279

Chapter 32 Five Ways Out 296

Chapter 33 Keep Calm and Carry On 309

Chapter 34 Until We Meet Again 316

Chapter 35 In the Time of Madness 330

Chapter 36 Miniskirts and Horses 341

Chapter 37 The Colonel's Collection 352

Epilogue: The End of an Era 371

Notes 379

About the Author 381

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The Ignorance of Bliss: An American Kid in Saigon 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Laura Keller 10 months ago
Sandy lived this amazing life in Saigon starting the the tender age of only 10, along with her 3 siblings, just before the breakout of the Vietnam war. The entire Hanna family, along with her beautiful mother Ruby Nell, were all driven into a life that her father, Col. George Hanna, (who had once worked under General Patton in WWII), had chosen for himself and his family. Every page puts you right there, looking at Vietnam and the Vietnamese people, so differently, through the eyes of his children who were immersed in a world so foreign, and yet expected, as that of being an Army BRAT. I really suggest that you read this wonderful story. I couldn't put it down. I could see the entire Vietnam experience, that I grew up wondering about, here in the USA. A war that myself and and most others that I knew, even those who fought there, enlisted or drafted, couldn't quite understand why. All as seen through the eyes of children my own age at the time, who tasked with a life set there in Vietnam from 1960 through 1962. A truly WILD and wonderful adventure. I want you all, to get to see a part of our History that has been questioned and speculated about for many years, but have never encountered the entire truth. READ THIS BOOK! THE IGNORANCE OF BLISS: AN AMERICAN KID IN SAIGON. I know that you will not only enjoy this story, you will be truly moved and enlightened by a tale from the mouth of a near babe of ten years old. By the end of this book, most if not all of my unanswered questions about the Vietnam war and the Vietnamese people were answered. Her father gave her information that was at one time censored, now revealed, that helped me to understand what for so many years, the answers that were not available to it us.
George Hanna 9 months ago
I want to thank my sister Sandy for writing this book. It took me back almost 60 years to two of the most consequential years of my life. I have never before read a book that had me as one of the principal characters. It was a very different experience. I was surprised at how well written her book is. To me, Sandy has always been an excellent artist as you who have read the book can tell from the pictures she produced and included. One aspect of the story I consider the most consequential is the story of Colonel Sam, Chief of Ordinance, my father’s counterpart in the Vietnamese Army. As depicted in the book, due to corruption, favoritism, and disseat on the part of the Diem Regime, a fine man and his lovely family were destroyed and likely murdered in the process. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in seeing a different take on Vietnam and thing were early on in the war.
Anonymous 10 months ago
The adventures of one very cool and clever kid in pre-war Saigon, with a twist. She lives to tell about her military family that was assigned to live in pre-war Saigon like you would go to a theme park- only this kid handled it like it was a "bombs and bullets Adventureland” as bullets were flying around her. Keep in mind that this story is before all the crazy happened in Vietnam for Americans. VN was dealing with their own bombs and bullets civil war (unbeknownst to me) after rejecting Japan, among others. The expose’ in the middle of the book does a good, well researched, job of setting up the pretext/cause to what later became the infamous conflict we all know of. The events are covered in a very interesting manner historically, artfully, politically, visually, and poetically. I came to know the characters and their situations and the results of their antics. A unique story told from a pure and unique perspective that delivers surprising irony back to the adults while dealing with life in pre-war Saigon. The family packed up and left the comforts of home (wherever that was) only to be situated into a truly unique experience. This happened while all of us here were kickin-it and being cool back in our home town. We saw our friends everyday, shared experiences and did everything ordinary that went along with life as a kid. As a child, it blindly never even occurred to us that there were any other options while growing up. Especially if the option was moving to Saigon which was the conscious choice by the adults in the room. Books are usually written by an adult perspective but the twist in this story comes from the curious, clear eyes of a 10yr. old observer of adults. This child had to learn quickly about the rapidly changing and wacky world around her. After reading the book I was impressed by the unique perceptions developed by the storyteller. A really great ride thanks to the astute protagonist known to other “insiders" as a "military brat”. Thank you for this.
GeorgesCinq 8 days ago
I couldn't put the book down. I've known the author Sandy, for several years. Reading "The Ignorance of Bliss" was like listening to her talk over dinner, in her natural and articulate voice. Over the years, Sandy has told all her friends bits and pieces of her years in Viet Nam. Now, finally the story is complete and even more amazing than we imagined. Having lived through the 60s and Viet Nam war from this side of the Pacific, it's fascinating to relive vicariously the life of a tween in Saigon. Most importantly, I was intrigued to hear first-hand what the military officers in Viet Nam were saying and thinking, and not surprised to know their opinions were categorically ignored by the Washington politicians. How fortunate that so much written material and photographs were saved by her father, the Colonel and his wife Ruby Nell. Bravo Sandy Hana!
Anonymous 3 months ago
Great book for this story of life abroad as a family
Anonymous 5 months ago
Sandy Hanna’s book An Ignorance of Bliss Is a colorful, entertaining book which uses the background of being a child of a military family stationed in Vietnam in the early 60’s to introduces us to 2 different cultures. First the daily life and adventure of the Military brat. These children of military personnel live all over the world and can bring an interesting perspective on our normal ignorant, inward looking, selfish American lives. Hanna also introduces us to is the self-interest and ignorance of those who govern us. This is something we have seen repeatedly thru the decades of the late 20th century and early 21st century, the ignorance and lack of interest in the world around us and its history has cost us billions of dollars and thousands of American lives. Though this is a lighthearted book with enjoyable stories of daily life and adventures of a child in Saigon and her life fitting back into America, Hanna makes sure to reinforce the opinion most of us already have, that the US should never have been in Vietnam and we still have not learned from our mistakes.
Anonymous 7 months ago
This is an extraordinary book. It is the engaging and heart-warming tale based on the recollections of a 10- to 12-year-old American girl’s adventures living in prewar Saigon, Vietnam, where her US Army colonel father was posted as a military advisor—but it is more. In a skillfully crafted page-turner, author Sandy Hanna has painted a captivating picture of the “Paris of the Orient,” as the capital city was known during Vietnam’s life as a French colony. Her portrayal of the aura of Saigon in 1960–62—the sights, sounds, smells, and moods of the place—will be accessible to a wide range of readers, from seasoned world travelers to those for whom faraway lands have remained a mystery. As a US military “brat” who grew up in Europe, Asia, and the US, Ms. Hanna has also produced in this book a sort of tribute to the children of Americans posted overseas, young people who can face obstacles adjusting to new terrain but also have unusual opportunities for learning and growth. For all of these aspects of the book, I greatly enjoyed reading it, but as one who was also raised abroad, the feature of the narrative that gripped me most was the thorough and sensitive coverage of the political and cultural history of Vietnam War. Based on quotations from books and news reports that she intersperses between chapters, as well as confidential documents her father was given by his Vietnamese army counterpart, and her own further research and recollections, Sandy Hanna presents a superb explanation of the causes and missteps leading up to the War, which remains one of the most misunderstood and tragic periods in American history. I highly recommend this book.
CoreyonDelaware 11 months ago
Vietnam through a child's eyes at a pivotal time. Amazing perspective and very well written.