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Tea Leaves

In Vietnam, economic success underpins literary boom

Interest in new and traditional writing soars despite rampant consumerism

A scene from Ho Chi Minh City's popular "book street." (Photo by Nguyen Thi Hoang Yen)

Against the colorful backdrop of Vietnam's Tet (Lunar New Year) holidays in late January, there is plenty of evidence of rising consumerism among the country's burgeoning middle class. Hanoi's Doi Moi economic policy reforms from the mid-1980s were intended to drive a shift toward a socialist-oriented market economy. What emerged was a distinctive blend of capitalism and socialism, with growing focus on entrepreneurism and material success. One surprising trend, however, has been the revival of interest in Vietnamese literature -- evidenced by the crowds in bookstores buying books as new year gifts.

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