Vietnam Writers Association and Vietnam Union for the Arts and Literature Honor Joiner Institute

Office of Communications | December 27, 2017
Huu Thinh with, L to R, Nguyen Ba Chung (poet and translator); Bruce Weigl (veteran poet and Writers' Workshop faculty member); Kevin Bowen (former director); and Thomas T. Kane (director)

Huu Thinh with, L to R, Nguyen Ba Chung (poet and translator); Bruce Weigl (veteran poet and Writers' Workshop faculty member); Kevin Bowen (former director); and Thomas T. Kane (director)

The Vietnam Writers Association (VWA) and the Vietnam Union for the Arts and Literature awarded national medals to UMass Boston's William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences for the institute's contributions to the arts and literature in Vietnam.

Kevin Bowen, a veteran poet and director of what was then the Joiner Center, first reached out to Vietnam in 1987, providing medical support and opportunities for cultural dialogue with Vietnamese writers and veterans during the difficult period of U.S. embargo on Vietnam that was imposed for 20 years after the Vietnam War.

For the last 30 years, the Joiner Institute has translated 15 books of Vietnamese poetry into English and hosted approximately 100 Vietnamese writers, poets, artists, and musicians at its annual Writers' Workshop. In October, during a VWA workshop, Secretary General of the Vietnam Union for the Arts and Literature and Chairman of the Vietnam Writers Association Huu Thinh awarded medals to Joiner Institute director Thomas T. Kane; Kevin Bowen; Joiner staff member, poet, and Vietnamese translator Nguyen Ba Chung; and Writers' Workshop faculty member and Pulitzer Prize-nominated Vietnam veteran poet Bruce Weigl.

Huu Trinh said the Joiner Institute "has contributed positively to the mutual understanding between the two peoples, and for the normalization and development of relations between Vietnam and the United States of America."

He made the significant observation that the American veteran writers made the effort to come back to Vietnam and build a relationship with former enemies, noting that was not the case with the French and Japanese soldiers who fought in Vietnam during earlier wars. He also discussed opportunities for continued and expanded cooperation in the areas of poetry, literature, and cross-translations of notable works of each of the two countries. 

“It was a very moving experience and a highlight of my work at the Joiner Institute to see the warmth and friendship being expressed between the American and Vietnamese writers at the workshop in Hanoi, many of whom were once combat veterans fighting on opposites sides of the conflict, and now close and trusted life-long friends,” Kane said.

During the 30th Writers' Workshop this past June, the Joiner Institute published the dual-language (English-Vietnamese) book For Those Who Cross the Ocean. Copies are available at the institute for $5.

Comment on this story

Comments (6)

Posted by Michael H. Cunningham | January 09, 2018 - 4:35 p.m.

Tom - Job well done! Congratulations. Reaching out to each other is cathartic, for all sides, and I am proud of the Joiner Institute for doing this.
If you think it would help, I would be honored to donate a copy of my book, Walking Point, to Mr. Huu Thinh.


Posted by Dan Higgins | January 09, 2018 - 8:48 a.m.

Long overdue for the Joiner Institute to be acknowledged for the great work that they do. Congratulations!!!!


Posted by Linda Dittmar | January 08, 2018 - 3:09 p.m.

Wonderful and well-earned recognition. I applaud the Joiner for years of wonderful work supporting so many writers.


Posted by Robert Driscoll | January 08, 2018 - 2 p.m.

Congratulations. I am very proud to be part of the Joiner Institute. My years of helping out in the office and the directions received at the workshops supported me in writing my story, “Returning for My Brother.”  I wish you many years of success and growth. Many blessings and peace.


Posted by Dorothy Shubow Nelson | January 08, 2018 - 12:59 p.m.

These awards and recognitions are well-deserved. The story, for its very important details, and the remarkable photo of those who received the medals, combine to paint a moving and memorable portrait of these devoted activists, teachers, leaders, and writers and their purposeful and unchartered course of work that was initiated many years ago and continues to this day.

My respect and admiration for the faculty and administrators of the Joiner Institute runs deep. I will always remember and value the presence of Paul Atwood in my honors classes at UMass Boston. I am grateful for Kevin Bowen’s supportive initiatives and organized readings beyond UMass Boston into our communities, and the many programs throughout the year that offered the provocative and innovative work of American and International artists and writers. I am glad that I have been able to participate in the summer workshops over recent years. My experience with the Joiner Institute has inspired me to develop my own writing workshops for veterans and their families at Cape Ann Veterans Services in Gloucester, MA. This is the fifth consecutive year of those workshops. We have just published a book from the writers in these workshops, called The Inner Voice and The Outer World, Writings by Cape Ann Veterans and Their Families. On December 10, 2017 a cross-section of more than 150 people listened for two hours as 16 writers read their excerpts from this anthology.—Dorothy Shubow Nelson (former member of the English Dept. at UMass Boston)


Posted by Bruce Weigl | January 08, 2018 - 12:12 p.m.

It was a real joy traveling to the city that I love so much and think of now as my second home, Ha Noi, with Tom, Kevin, Chung, and Chan. I was especially happy to be able to introduce Tom to some old friends in Ha Noi. I can’t wait to return!  Thanks, Joiner Institute.  Bruce Weigl