4th Uncle in the Mountain - Recommended Reading


Fourth Uncle in the Mountain by Quang Van Nguyen & Marjorie Pivar

This book is Quang Van Nguyen’s autobiography. It begins when he was abandoned by his parents at the foot of a flagpole in a bustling market at dawn someplace in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. (It’s been awhile since I read the book, but it’s worth reading again.)

This abandonment occurred during the period following the second world war when the French were reasserting their colonial dominance over the Vietnamese people who were widely opposed to this French effort. As they saw it, they had finally ousted the Japanese oppressors, and now they had to do the same with the French and, then again later, the US CIA and military.

Quang Van Nguyen was born and survived all these conflicts and eventually ended up in Vermont.

In any case, his father was a Buddhist monk, and this meant he was a primary target of the French authorities. His parents were therefore fleeing for their lives on the morning of his abandonment. This explains why he was left at the foot of the flagpole immediately preceding the daily requirement of everyone to cease bartering and face the raising of the French flag as “The Internationale” (ironically) blasted over the marketplace. In other words, his parents knew he’d be found and cared for, as turned out to be the case.

The book then follows his development, education, and truancy up to and beyond how he learned acupuncture and herbalism from his adopted father, a highly and widely respected traveling Buddhist doctor.

Marjorie Pivar met Quang in Vermont on an herb walk and was astounded at the depth of his knowledge regarding edible and medicinal used of plants and mushrooms in the area given that he hadn’t lived there long at all.

So together they agreed to write his story, and an excellent story it is. But I suggest you find out for yourself.