Catfish and Mandala

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9780002571845: Catfish and Mandala

Catfish and Mandala The award-winning "Catfish and Mandala" is the poignant, lyrical tale of an American odyssey--a solo bicycle voyage around the Pacific Rim to Vietnam made by a young Vietnamese-American man in pursuit of both his adopted homeland and his forsaken fatherland. Full description

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Review:

"America is full of young old Vietnamese, uncentred, uncertain of their identity. The old generation calls them mat goch--lost roots", writes Andrew Pham. He should know: he was one of them, describing himself as "the rootless one." One day--unable to hold down the engineering career his father encouraged--he left California on a cheap bicycle to search for his roots. Catfish and Mandala is his memoir of these travels.

Catfish And Mandala is the Vietnam story from a different perspective. When Nam vets apologise to Pham for what they did to "his people" he feels fraudulent, "Who are my people?". For his family, it was the Americans pulling out which caused the most hardship. His father, an army officer, was imprisoned by the Vietcong, narrowly escaping death. The family made a terrifying escape by boat to become refugees when Pham was just 10 ("America fished us out of the ocean like drowning cockroaches and fed us and clothed us ... ")

Catfish And Mandala is as much an autobiography as a travel book, jumping back and forth between Pham's adult cycle adventure through his lost homeland and his childhood memories. As Pham freely admits, he feels American, yet to Americans he is an Asian but in Vietnam he is an outsider too ( a privileged "Viet-kieu"--foreign Vietnamese). He remains deeply confused and has overwhelming guilty about almost everything---those left behind, his dead sister, the Americans who died, the Vietnamese who died and the poverty of those he meets in Vietnam now. It's painful but moving to read. You'll find yourself caught up in his agony. His writing is so beautiful and poetic that it draws you into his history until you feel he is an old friend.

This wonderful book both modernises the classic beatnik notion of a search for identity and brings alive the sensory rollercoaster of Vietnam--from the fish sauce town of Phan Tiet to Saigon's helter-skelter of cycles. --Sarah Champion

Review:

"Thoreau, Theroux, Kerouac, Steinbeck, Mark Twain and William Least Heat-Moon--the roster of those who have turned to their travels for inspiration includes some of America's most noted scribes. Now add Andrew X. Pham to the list . . . "Catfish and Mandala" records a remarkable odyssey across landscape and into memory."--"The Seattle Times"
"An engaging and vigorously told story . . . a fresh and original look at how proud Vietnamese on the war's losing side reconciled having their identity abruptly hyphenated to Vietnamese-American."--Gavin Scott, "Chicago Tribune"""
"A modern Plutarch might pair Pham's story with that of Chris McCandless, the uncompromising young man whose spiritual quest led him to a forlorn death in Alaska. Pham, instead of seeking out remote places where he could explore fantasies of self-sufficiency, instictively understood that self-knowledge emerges from engagement with others. In his passionate telling, his travelogue acquires the universality of a bildungsroman."--"The New Yorker"
"A trip so necessary and so noble makes others seem like mere jaunts or stunts.""--The New York Times Book Review"
"Part memoir, part travelogue . . . "Catfish and Mandala" [is] a visceral, funny and tender look at modern-day Vietnam, interwoven with the saga of Pham's refugee family."--Annie Nakao, "San Francisco Examiner "
"Far more than a travelogue . . . "Catfish and Mandala" is a seamlessly constructed work deftly combining literary techniques with careful, evenhanded reportage . . . A gifted writer . . . Pham opens readers to the full sadness of the human condition on both sides of the world, marveling at spiritual resilience amid irreconcilable facts."--Roland Kelts, "The Philadelphia Inquirer"
"No small achievement . . . Scenes of [Pham's] wild road adventure [are] worthy of Jack Kerouac."--"The San Francisco Chronicle"
"Stunning . . . A brilliantly written memoir in which a young Vietnamese-American uses a bicycle journey in his homeland as a vehicle to tell his eventful life story . . . Pham (born Pham Xuan An) fled Vietnam with his family in 1977 at age ten. Raised in California, he worked hard, went to UCLA, and landed a good engineering job. A few years ago, rebelling against family pressures to succeed and a patronizing, if not racist, work environment, Pham quit his job. Much to his parents' displeasure, he set off on bicycle excursions through Mexico, Japan, and, finally, Vietnam. 'I have to do something unethnic, ' he says. 'I have to go. Make my pilgrimage.' In his first book, Pham details his solo cycling journeys, mixing in stories of his and his family's life before and after leaving Vietnam. The most riveting sections are Pham's exceptional evocations of his father's time in a postwar communist reeducation (read: concentration) camp and the family's near miraculous escape by sea from their homeland . . . An insightful, creatively written report on Vietnam today and on the fate of a Vietnamese family in America."--"Kirkus Reviews "
"[Pham] fuels his memoir and travelogue, full of both comic and painful adventures, with a broad appreciation of the variety and vividness of creation. The people, the landscapes, the poverty and grime of Vietnam live for us through him, a man full of sadness and unrequited longing and love . . . a powerful memoir of grief and a doomed search for cultural identity."--Vince Passaro, "Elle"
"In narrating his search for his roots, Vietnamese-American and first-time author Pham alternates between two story lines. The first, which begins in war-torn Vietnam, chronicles the author's hair-raising escape to the U.S. as an adolescent in 1977 and his family's subsequent and somewhat troubled life in California. The second recounts his return to Vietnam almost two decades later as an Americanized but culturally confused young man. Uncertain if his trip is a 'pilgrimage or a farce, ' Pham pedals his bike the length of his native country, all the while confronting the guilt he feels as a successful Viet-kieu (Vietnamese expatriate) and as a survivor of his older sister Chai, whose isolation in America and eventual suicide he did little to prevent. Flipping between the two story lines, Pham elucidates his main dilemma: he's an outsider in both America and Vietnam--in the former for being Vietnamese, and the latter for being Viet-kieu . . . In writing a sensitive, revealing book about cultural identity, Pham also succeeds in creating an exciting adventure story."--"Publishers Weekly"
"Perhaps the most American writing theme is the road trip as search for identity. Pham has written a memoir (and, in the process, a travelogue) that will be widely appealing. His family immigrated to the U.S. after escaping from Vietnam, where his father had been held in a communist 're-education camp' after the war. Once in the U.S., his parents worked grueling hours to afford to educate their children. During those years Pham's sister ran away after being beaten by her father, and when she returned years later, she had become a transsexual. Eventually, she commited suicide, and her death was a dark, unspoken family secret. Pham, who had become an engineer, had an identity crisis and left his career to bicycle through the U.S., Mexico, Japan, and, eventually, Vietnam, to examine his roots. Seeing his native country through Americanized eyes, he finds it both attractive and repellent. Ultimately, he must reconcile to being an outsider in all cultures."--Eric Robbins, "Booklist"

Thoreau, Theroux, Kerouac, Steinbeck, Mark Twain and William Least Heat-Moon--the roster of those who have turned to their travels for inspiration includes some of America's most noted scribes. Now add Andrew X. Pham to the list . . . "Catfish and Mandala" records a remarkable odyssey across landscape and into memory. "The Seattle Times"

An engaging and vigorously told story . . . a fresh and original look at how proud Vietnamese on the war's losing side reconciled having their identity abruptly hyphenated to Vietnamese-American. "Gavin Scott, Chicago Tribune"

A modern Plutarch might pair Pham's story with that of Chris McCandless, the uncompromising young man whose spiritual quest led him to a forlorn death in Alaska. Pham, instead of seeking out remote places where he could explore fantasies of self-sufficiency, instictively understood that self-knowledge emerges from engagement with others. In his passionate telling, his travelogue acquires the universality of a bildungsroman. "The New Yorker"

A trip so necessary and so noble makes others seem like mere jaunts or stunts. "The New York Times Book Review"

Part memoir, part travelogue . . . "Catfish and Mandala" [is] a visceral, funny and tender look at modern-day Vietnam, interwoven with the saga of Pham's refugee family. "Annie Nakao, San Francisco Examiner"

Far more than a travelogue . . . "Catfish and Mandala" is a seamlessly constructed work deftly combining literary techniques with careful, evenhanded reportage . . . A gifted writer . . . Pham opens readers to the full sadness of the human condition on both sides of the world, marveling at spiritual resilience amid irreconcilable facts. "Roland Kelts, The Philadelphia Inquirer"

No small achievement . . . Scenes of [Pham's] wild road adventure [are] worthy of Jack Kerouac. "The San Francisco Chronicle"

Stunning . . . A brilliantly written memoir in which a young Vietnamese-American uses a bicycle journey in his homeland as a vehicle to tell his eventful life story . . . Pham (born Pham Xuan An) fled Vietnam with his family in 1977 at age ten. Raised in California, he worked hard, went to UCLA, and landed a good engineering job. A few years ago, rebelling against family pressures to succeed and a patronizing, if not racist, work environment, Pham quit his job. Much to his parents' displeasure, he set off on bicycle excursions through Mexico, Japan, and, finally, Vietnam. 'I have to do something unethnic, ' he says. 'I have to go. Make my pilgrimage.' In his first book, Pham details his solo cycling journeys, mixing in stories of his and his family's life before and after leaving Vietnam. The most riveting sections are Pham's exceptional evocations of his father's time in a postwar communist reeducation (read: concentration) camp and the family's near miraculous escape by sea from their homeland . . . An insightful, creatively written report on Vietnam today and on the fate of a Vietnamese family in America. "Kirkus Reviews"

[Pham] fuels his memoir and travelogue, full of both comic and painful adventures, with a broad appreciation of the variety and vividness of creation. The people, the landscapes, the poverty and grime of Vietnam live for us through him, a man full of sadness and unrequited longing and love . . . a powerful memoir of grief and a doomed search for cultural identity. "Vince Passaro, Elle"

In narrating his search for his roots, Vietnamese-American and first-time author Pham alternates between two story lines. The first, which begins in war-torn Vietnam, chronicles the author's hair-raising escape to the U.S. as an adolescent in 1977 and his family's subsequent and somewhat troubled life in California. The second recounts his return to Vietnam almost two decades later as an Americanized but culturally confused young man. Uncertain if his trip is a 'pilgrimage or a farce, ' Pham pedals his bike the length of his native country, all the while confronting the guilt he feels as a successful Viet-kieu (Vietnamese expatriate) and as a survivor of his older sister Chai, whose isolation in America and eventual suicide he did little to prevent. Flipping between the two story lines, Pham elucidates his main dilemma: he's an outsider in both America and Vietnam--in the former for being Vietnamese, and the latter for being Viet-kieu . . . In writing a sensitive, revealing book about cultural identity, Pham also succeeds in creating an exciting adventure story. "Publishers Weekly"

Perhaps the most American writing theme is the road trip as search for identity. Pham has written a memoir (and, in the process, a travelogue) that will be widely appealing. His family immigrated to the U.S. after escaping from Vietnam, where his father had been held in a communist 're-education camp' after the war. Once in the U.S., his parents worked grueling hours to afford to educate their children. During those years Pham's sister ran away after being beaten by her father, and when she returned years later, she had become a transsexual. Eventually, she commited suicide, and her death was a dark, unspoken family secret. Pham, who had become an engineer, had an identity crisis and left his career to bicycle through the U.S., Mexico, Japan, and, eventually, Vietnam, to examine his roots. Seeing his native country through Americanized eyes, he finds it both attractive and repellent. Ultimately, he must reconcile to being an outsider in all cultures. "Eric Robbins, Booklist""

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ANDREW PHAM
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ISBN 10: 0002571846 ISBN 13: 9780002571845
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2.

ANDREW PHAM
Published by FLAMINGO (2000)
ISBN 10: 0002571846 ISBN 13: 9780002571845
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller
Irish Booksellers
(Rumford, ME, U.S.A.)
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Book Description FLAMINGO, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 2571846

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