Author Dennis Dunivan reads and discusses his new book, "Escape from Communist Heaven," a fictional account of the 1975 Fall of Saigon based on the true events from the author’s best friend, Viet Nguyen who was a teenager in South Vietnam during that time.
Communist tanks advance through Viet’s Saigon neighborhood when he is fourteen years old and overtake the Presidential Palace as American helicopters retreat over the South China Sea. During the frantic evacuation, the American Embassy isn’t able to destroy secret files containing the names of South Vietnamese intelligence officers. Viet’s father is one of these officers. Within days, the city is infiltrated by communist soldiers who take over public buildings and spies who move into local neighborhoods. To survive, his family must keep a low profile. Viet’s life was better during the war. With the Americans gone, he has little hope for freedom and must watch his every step. But his rebellious spirit gets the upper hand, and he is arrested in the black market, becoming one of more than a million people in labor camps (or re-education camps) spread across the jungles of Vietnam. Viet’s captors have a dream. When everyone on earth is under their control, they believe, we will have reached Communist Heaven.
Many of the prisoners are ex-soldiers. Others are religious leaders, academics and anyone who might provide leadership against the new regime. Tens of thousands of these prisoners die of starvation, malaria and physical beatings. Viet is determined not to be one of them. He uses the same daring that led to his arrest to create a chance to break free. Based on the true story of Viet Nguyen and written in his voice, Escape from Communist Heaven is a novel about the harrowing experiences of a teenager who makes some errors in judgment, and faces the consequences, in a time and place where small mistakes can be fatal. To know freedom, he must not only escape from prison, but also from his country.