You can just imagine the fun of growing up in the Midwest with a name like Bich (not pronounced the way it's spelled) and being so tiny that your peers want to use your head as an armrest, right? That's not what this childhood memoir from a Vietnamese-American whose family moved to Michigan when she was a baby is really about, but details like provide access points for people of all backgrounds, I think. Something else that will appeal to lots of y'all is Nguyen's love for and descriptions of food, especially the 1970s/80s candy that give her in her youth both torment and succor. She is a total foodie and is enraptured by the food writing in the Little House series. Who knew?
Nguyen is as voracious a writer as she is a reader. Her memories are rich and evocative. My only complaint is that the story jumps around a little. I like my art and theater experimental, but when it comes to music and literature, keep it linear please! Things get especially loose as she gets to adolescence. Maybe her teens should have been left for another volume? Same with her reunion with a long-lost family member. I'm not sure the author has really processed that enough to write about it anyway.
Btw Nguyen is a dedicated reader and library user. She writes about that from pages 150-152. The bit I can really relate to is, "I read to be alone. I read so as not to be alone."
Torie (not verified)
Thu, 08/06/2009 - 7:27pm
Jenna, have you ever read
Jenna, have you ever read The Gangster We Are All Looking For, by Lê Thi Diem Thúy? It's also about a Vietnamese immigrant, this one coming of age in San Diego in the early '80's, same time and place as me. Maybe this is why I enjoyed it so much, because I had to agree with a reviewer on Free Williamsburg that had a hard time locating an actual story therein. Anyway, I enjoy reading about other l'il POC coming up in the 80's and the Little House on the Prairie bit pretty much guarantees Stealing Buddha's Dinner going onto my library Holds list.
Sat, 08/08/2009 - 12:39pm
Hi Torie! I haven't read
I haven't read that one, but it's on my list now, and I'll be prepared for a lack of narrative thread. That's a fair exchange for a glimpse into the commonalities between her childhood and yours. Or maybe you should write a memoir.
Deborah (not verified)
Thu, 08/06/2009 - 11:03pm
Wow, what a coincidence.
Wow, what a coincidence. Did she win a poetry award at Univ of Michigan? I think I was at the reading where she got it, back when I lived in Ann Arbor.
johanna (not verified)
Sat, 01/02/2010 - 6:59pm
Nguyen has a recent novel,
Nguyen has a recent novel, Short Girls, which is freakin' awesome. I liked her memoir a lot but loved the novel.
Sat, 01/02/2010 - 7:10pm
On it, Johanna, thanks! I
On it, Johanna, thanks! I think I ordered it for Barnard, but it's not in yet.