Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stealing Buddha's Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen

I cannot sing the praises of this book enough. Stealing Buddha's Dinner was a wonderful honest look at the life of a Vietnamese immigrant. Bich's family left Vietnam at the end of the war. She describes how her father found a way onto a boat and how they immigrated from the refugee camps to Grand Rapids, Michigan. The book is not just about culture, finding your way in a new country but also about the differences in food.
Nguyen finds food a separator between her immigrant family and the American life she wants to live. She doesn't want pho and stir frys. She want Toll House cookies, pizza and hamburgers. She consistently argues with her stepmom (who's Mexican American adding a whole other layer to the mix) for non-Vietnamese, non-Mexican dishes. Nguyen sees those American foods as being integral to her becoming an American. Almost as if she ate enough pizza and french fries she would lose her black hair and grow blond hair. But it reminded me of something I went through as a kid. I imagined my friends eating pizza every night while we had pork chops. I always thought someone else's life was easier.
I also enjoyed the feeling of "otherness" that Nguyen had. She wasn't Vietnamese but she wasn't American either. She was in a separate place where Vietnamese and American met and didn't mingle. She felt separate from both cultures, trying to make her way. I could feel the loneliness that she felt.
Highly recommended. Others who shared their thoughts on Stealing Buddha's Dinner: Captive Thoughts Book Club, The Book Trout, Blogging Outloud, The Literate Housewife Review and Devourer of Books.


  1. This book sounds really insightful. I'm going to look for it at my library. Thanks for the rec!

  2. I read this one a while ago and loved it too! I enjoyed reading your review.


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