Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam’s Madame Nhu | Mechanics' Institute

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Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam’s Madame Nhu
Author Monique Brinson Demery in conversation with Andrew Lam

Cover of Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu

Co-sponsored by Asia Society, Northern California

Madame Nhu, the young and glamorous first lady of the Republic of South Vietnam, played a pivotal role in one of darkest events of American history: the U.S. government’s fateful decision to support the 1963 military coup that toppled South Vietnam’s ruling government. Nicknamed “the Dragon Lady,” she remains one of the most memorable, most demonized, and most mysterious figures of the entire Vietnam War period. Author Monique Brinson Demery weaves an account of her own journey of discovery with the extraordinary story of Madame Nhu’s life, illuminating the complicated woman at the heart of a generation-defining conflict, and explaining what became of her in its aftermath. 

Monique Brinson Demery took her first trip to Vietnam in 1997 as part of a study abroad program with Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She was the recipient of a US Department of Education grant to attend the Vietnamese Advanced Summer Institute in Hanoi, and in 2003, she received a Master’s degree in East Asia Regional Studies from Harvard University. Demery’s initial interviews with Madame Nhu in 2005 were the first Nhu had given to any Westerner in nearly twenty years. Demery lives in Chicago.

Andrew Lam is the author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora, which won the 2006 PEN Open Book Award, and East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.  His recent book of short stories, Birds of Paradise Lost, recently received the 2013 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award.

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