A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain

Vietnamese through the Eyes of a Foreigner

Robert Olen Butler’s collection of short stories in his novella, “A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain,” explores issues confronting Vietnamese immigrants in America after the conclusion of the U.S. war in Vietnam. With great care, Butler exhibits the experiences of displaced Vietnamese such as indifference, dislocation, adjustment, and acculturation encountered after the fall of Saigon and the loss of their nation. The original stories are narrated through the voices of Vietnamese Americans who are residing in and around the New Orleans area. Most likely in response to POW/MIA concerns, Butler later added two additional short stories (last two in the collection) that provides a perspective of a Communist fighter still in Vietnam and an American defector who is still living in a remote and poverty stricken location in Vietnam. Butler’s novel was an instant hit winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1993.

Although there are few cynical critics of Butler’s work there is little contention in how he structured and depicted the struggles and social issues facing the Vietnamese. I support his work because of the great level of sociological, anthropological, historical, and realistic manner he utilized in capturing/delivering the...

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