I said in a previous review that one of the themes of my reading is about what happens when we try to bring gods into concrete human reality. Another theme is about conflicts between modern, post-modern, and traditional in national/cultural communities. A couple years ago, i saw a performance (can't remember the name of the group) about global citizens who were at home everywhere but yet had no home anywhere, who resided in between cultures and places. It was simultaneously lonely and infinitely connected. I related on a certain level.Authors like Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Andrew Lam write about these experiences--I'd say with a perfect mix of joy, sadness, and a floating tinge of alienation and maybe-not-quote-belongingness. I don't claim that my experiences are similar, but the struggles they write about resonate with some of my own struggles with connection and disconnection from the rural, anabaptist religious culture I grew up out of.I've heard Andrew Lam speak and write about the Vietnam of his childhood, the Vietnam of Vietnamese expatriate communities in San Jose and elsewhere, and the Vietnam he sees when he returns to visit and write. Lam has an excellent grasp of the complicated emotions and contradictions, the connections and disconnections, the ridiculousness and seriousness of his experiences -- and he writes about it in ways that resonate.This book surprised me. I wanted to learn more about diasporas, about Vietnam, about emigration and immigration, and I did. But deeper than that, I also learned (to the point of tears) about commonality and resonance along with the difference between my life and Andrew Lam's writing. And that's gifted writing.Walk-Minh Allen
Reading Lam's essays/stories gave me an important and incredible glimpse into another war refugee's experiences and thoughts on life and death. Being adopted from Vietnam as an infant, on paper, I'm part of the diaspora that came forth from the end of the Vietnam/American War. However, due to my age and circumstances, I have no recollection of my few months living in South Vietnam and no blood relations to tell me stories about the old country. The essays presented in Perfume Dreams made me reflect on what it might have, or could have, been like if I had left the country at an older age and with blood relatives.I think the book is mainly a testament to the author's transformation from a rigid upbringing and deeply embedded cultural expectations into a world traveler and respected journalist. Each essay in the collection attempts to bring about a balance of subjective and objective points of view, and deftly comes to terms with ever-present nostalgia and modern reality.In the future, I'm sure it'll be a pleasure to read his other two books that have been published since Perfume Dreams.Marissa
Lam arrived in the USA as a child refugee of the Vietnam War. This book is a collection of essays in which he reflects on his memories of Vietnam, the war, and coming to the United States. It's well-written, engaging, and, ultimately, very uplifting.Andrew
since i wrote it, i suppose i'm a bit bias. Lol...Alice
Thank you for the insider look on being Vietnamese American and leaving Vietnam. I think I have a better, more compassionate understanding of the complexities, if not the language. I think I need to brush up on the historical context. Maybe read Takaki's chapter on refugees from SE Asia. In all seriousness, I ate a lot of Buckeye Pho and watched a lot of Vietnamese music videos while finishing this book.Sally
Of course, this subject interests me very much. The Vietnamese diaspora...........love that word! Somewhat similar to Andrew Lam's, Catfish and Mandala, as a bittersweet remembrance of the early years in So. Vietnam and the flight to the confusing world of America. Worth a look for sureJames
Initially, this book was too slow for but as time progressed I began to really enjoy the writing. Using simplistic language, the author describes what goes through the mind of a child going through a war escaping and growing up in America. His juxtaposed experiences tell a story of person that has truly lived different lives.I especially enjoyed the portions of the book in which the author describes how different this modern world is compared to the life his parents led in Vietnam. His father, a loyal high ranking official in the Vietnamese army became a shadow of his former self becoming an unemployed drunkard in America. All hope was lost on him but he endured and was able to develop an identity away from war in order to support his family.However, this is a short read with a lot of history to tell so this was just more or less just a glance of the author's experiences in Vietnam. Still, it does tell a lot in its pages.Isabelle
This is a book any Vietnamese first generation child should read. This book illuminated a lot for me about my parents and the culture they were raised in. It also gave me a sense of relief that there were other Vietnamese Americans growing up to be artists and creative persons. I could very much relate to what he was talking about.Tara
this book exceeded my expectations in retelling the stories of vietnamese diaspora. i gave 4 stars instead of 5 stars because the book is a collection of essays, and since each is written with the author's background, repeated several times, i now remember he's left vietnam in a cargo plane to guam on 4/28/1975.it is also notable that the author writes well, at times reflecting poetry, wit and humor.iamtedae
I'm afraid this is one of those books I read to make myself look intelligent. It's fascinating, heartbreaking, lovely, fierce, lonely. New eyes on what it means to be an American. A difficult read, emotionally and intellectually.Karin C.
I'm officially in love with Andrew Lam's words. In this memoir, Lam's exquisite way of navigating worlds as the global villager, from San Francisco to Paris to Hanoi and back to childhood Dalat, is parceled into the finest of lines and paragraphs. That he becomes public in English, a third language, French and Vietnamese his first languages, is phenomenal. The hard edges of truths and realizations are blurred only by Lam's lyrical abilities, which allow him and us to peer more deeply into the life of the child and the eventual man, before and since the fall of Saigon.Theresa
Another wonderful book that fed my fascination with Vietnam, as well as the Vietnamese American experience.Jim
My mother suffered many of the same experiences as the author, though she came from the Ukraine after WWII. Still, I wasn't as overwhelmed as some reviewers. The stories are often heart rending, but too much of the same thing. The Whitehead chapter was good.