Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Winner of the 2005 PEN/Jerard Fund Award, this first book by Nguyen (literature & creative writing, Purdue Univ.) is a compelling story of a Vietnamese immigrant growing up in Grand Rapids, MI, during the 1980s. One-year-old Nguyen left her native country in April 1975 with her father, sister, grandmother Noi, and two uncles. After staying in refugee camps in Guam and Arkansas, the family soon arrived in Grand Rapids, where Nguyen's father mets Rosa, a Latina woman whom he soon married. Much of Nguyen's memoir is about food-Pringles, ice cream, and Kit Kats-and her efforts to become an all-American girl. Only at the end of the book does Nguyen reveal what she finally discovered about her birth mother, who had remained in Vietnam. A poignant tale of growing up in two cultures and the important role food played in her life, this quick, fun, but ultimately moving read is recommended for public libraries and academic libraries with food or multicultural collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/06.]-Nicole Mitchell, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib., Lister Hill (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Having arrived here from Saigon in 1975, the young Nguyen found that the best way to fit into her new country was to embrace its food. Winner of the 2005 PEN/Jerard Award for memoir in progress; with a seven-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Nguyen was just eight months old when her father brought her and her sister out of Vietnam in 1975. The family relocated in Michigan, where young Bich (pronounced "bic") wrestled with conflicting desires for her grandmother's native cooking and the American junk food the "real people" around her ate. The fascination with Pringles and Happy Meals is one symptom of the memoir's frequent reliance on the surface details of pop culture to generate verisimilitude instead of digging deeper into the emotional realities of her family drama, which plays out as her father drinks and broods and her stepmother, Rosa, tries to maintain a tight discipline. Readers are inundated with the songs Nguyen heard on the radio and the TV shows she watched-even her childhood thoughts about Little House on the Prairie-but tantalizing questions about her family remain unresolved, like why her father and stepmother continued to live together after their divorce. The mother left behind in Saigon is a shadowy presence who only comes into view briefly toward the end, another line of inquiry Nguyen chooses not to pursue too deeply. The passages that most intensely describe Nguyen's childhood desire to assimilate compensate somewhat for such gaps, but the overall impression is muted. (Feb. 5) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

I came of age before ethnic was cool, the author writes in her carefully crafted memoir of growing up in western Michigan as a Vietnamese refugee in the early 1980s. Swimming in a sea of blond, Nguyen recalls she often felt as if she were dreaming in wheat. No matter that they're mixed, the metaphors powerfully convey the author's experience of being an outsider--not only because she was a Vietnamese surrounded by Dutch descendants but also because she was an incipient writer: My role was to be out of the way, apart and observing. What seems most to have caught her eye and fired her imagination, then as now, was food, which not only provides the title for each chapter of the memoir but also serves as a convenient shorthand for the cultural (and metaphorical) differences between Toll House cookies and green sticky rice cakes, between Pringles and chao gio, between American and Vietnamese. It's a clever device and--like the book itself--leaves the reader hungry for more. --Michael Cart Copyright 2007 Booklist