Cart

Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam PDF, ePub eBook


Hot Best Seller
Title: Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam
Author: Andrew X. Pham
Publisher: Published September 2nd 2000 by Picador USA (first published 1999)
ISBN: 9780312267179
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

4370.Catfish_and_Mandala.pdf

In order to read or download eBook, you need to create FREE account.
eBook available in PDF, ePub, MOBI and Kindle versions


reward
How to download?
FREE registration for 1 month TRIAL Account.
DOWNLOAD as many books as you like (Personal use).
CANCEL the membership at ANY TIME if not satisfied.
Join Over 150.000 Happy Readers.


Catfish and Mandala is the story 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. Andrew X. Pham was born in Vietnam and raised in California. His father had been a POW of the Vietcong; his family came to America as "boat people." Follo Catfish and Mandala is the story 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. Andrew X. Pham was born in Vietnam and raised in California. His father had been a POW of the Vietcong; his family came to America as "boat people." Following the suicide of his sister, Pham quit his job, sold all of his possessions, and embarked on a year-long bicycle journey that took him through the Mexican desert, around a thousand-mile loop from Narita to Kyoto in Japan; and, after five months and 2,357 miles, to Saigon, where he finds "nothing familiar in the bombed-out darkness." In Vietnam, he's taken for Japanese or Korean by his countrymen, except, of course, by his relatives, who doubt that as a Vietnamese he has the stamina to complete his journey ("Only Westerners can do it"); and in the United States he's considered anything but American. A vibrant, picaresque memoir written with narrative flair and an eye-opening sense of adventure, Catfish and Mandala is an unforgettable search for cultural identity.

30 review for Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nhu Than

    Andrew X. Pham’s Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam tells the story of Andrew Pham, a young Vietnamese-American man who travels to his hometown in search of “finding himself” due to a conflict between his adoptive land and his native land. The book is based on a memoir that uses flashbacks during the war, when Pham’s family were imprisoned in Vietnam. However, escaping from Vietnam by boat, the family was able to start a new life in America. Andrew X. Pham’s Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam tells the story of Andrew Pham, a young Vietnamese-American man who travels to his hometown in search of “finding himself” due to a conflict between his adoptive land and his native land. The book is based on a memoir that uses flashbacks during the war, when Pham’s family were imprisoned in Vietnam. However, escaping from Vietnam by boat, the family was able to start a new life in America. In search of Pham’s identity, he sets out on a bicycle voyage, facing obstacles and experiencing a sense of adventure, Pham tries to discover himself by comparing the American culture to the Vietnamese culture. Pham explores the grounds of Vietnam despite the guilt of his sister’s death, Chi who took her own life. The book examines the similarities of culture and family, which intertwines with the search for cultural identity. A particularly memorable scene is early in the book when Pham tells a story of a starting family, Thong and Anh who lives in a shack in a back alley of a fishing town in Phan Thiet, Vietnam, struggling to support their first new-born baby. With no money to afford medicine, a doctor, or clothes to keep their baby warm, their little girl became too sick and eventually died during the night, not even a year old yet. Ultimately, the story of Pham’s adventure in Vietnam helped him discover his true cultural identity, bicycling from one city to another, being overcharged for being a Viet-Kieu, and reminiscing about his family’s past. It all adds up to a tale of discovering one’s self, a reality check for all that makes us realize who we really are. Catfish and Mandala tells the story very uniquely, reminding us to stay true to yourself, an insight of never forgetting where you’ve come from. During the course of my reading, not only was I able to enjoy the adventurous trip, but I was also able to spice up my geography skills, learning about the different cities, the history and the aftermath of the Vietnam War. As a Vietnamese-American myself, it’s shameful to say that I had no idea a city like Phan Thiet existed in Vietnam until I read this book. Following along the book, I had the chance to pick up the Vietnamese language as well as new vocabulary that I didn’t know beforehand. From chapter to chapter, the bicycling expedition had me reflecting on myself. Catfish and Mandala had me question about my own true identity of whether or not I had lost my Vietnamese roots. To have the fortunate opportunity to live the “American Dream,” adapting to the English language was essential which made me forget my native language. Because of this book, it got me thinking of traveling solo to Vietnam in the future to regain my cultural identity, just like how Pham did. I would definitely recommend this book because I believe it showcases a lot of emotional flashbacks and realistic events that everyone can relate to, especially from one Vietnamese-American to the next. Pham shares his bicycling trip to Vietnam to show his readers the country he grew up in, a place not only where he was born in, but where he came to visit to find his Vietnamese roots. The book gives the reader a sensational, imaginative ride to travel alongside with the author as each chapter is read, which, in my opinion, is something not many books can give to a reader.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David

    History is a nightmare from which Andrew X. Pham is trying to awake. I have a variety of odd and vague unappealing habits. One of them is reading one-star reviews on Goodreads. In the case of this book, one review of this book reads, in its entirety, “Just because you go on a cool vacation doesn't mean you have to write a book about it.” Call me all hyper-sensitive, but that seems just a smidge unfair. I mean, as a child, the guy endures the danger and chaos of the lurching end of a war, his fat History is a nightmare from which Andrew X. Pham is trying to awake. I have a variety of odd and vague unappealing habits. One of them is reading one-star reviews on Goodreads. In the case of this book, one review of this book reads, in its entirety, “Just because you go on a cool vacation doesn't mean you have to write a book about it.” Call me all hyper-sensitive, but that seems just a smidge unfair. I mean, as a child, the guy endures the danger and chaos of the lurching end of a war, his father is imprisoned and nearly killed, the family endures a nerve-wracking illegal journey out of the country in an open boat, followed by a prolonged period in a refugee camp where fellow inmates try to force his siblings into prostitution. Things get a little better when they get to the US, but they still have the isolation, the insincere “conversion” to Christianity (ironically, also a sincere attempt to make their American sponsors happy), the decision to travel across the country for the pleasure of living in a ghetto of fellow-exiles, plus the inevitable cross-cultural misunderstandings – deliberate and otherwise. I mean, all of that would tend to make one's return to one's home country more than “a cool vacation” – more like an attempt to find some peace in a world that hasn't given much peace voluntarily. At times, this book reminded me of the genre (which I tend to associate with the British) I've heard called “comedy of embarrassment”, in which the hero is fairly, perhaps endearingly, dorky. This is not everybody's idea of a fun read. For example, the author, in spite of both a background as well as a family situation rife with unpleasantness, could reasonably be expected to know that, when you land at Narita airport in Toyko in the middle of the night, deciding to take the bicycle that you've just taken out of baggage claim and ride it right out of the terminal unto the highway is not a life-choice that is likely to yield a pleasant result. In fact, the temptation to rhetorically ask your ereader if this guy had the sense that God gave dirt is well-nigh irresistible. Still, there's a part of human experience and human history which cannot be summed up in histories and memoirs of the great and powerful, and this book does a good job going into it. The story is really more than a cool vacation – it's an attempt to come to terms with a particularly difficult past. People who can't understand that lives like AX Pham's are more difficult than their own should probably try to acquire some of empathy by getting out more or, if not fond of interacting with the world, reading books with greater empathy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Connie

    Vietnamese-American Andrew Pham writes about his search for cultural identity in a book that is both a memoir and a biking travelogue. He remembers the fall of Saigon, his father's imprisonment in a communist reeducation camp, and the family's escape from Vietnam in a leaky fishing boat when he was a ten-year-old. After a stay in an Indonesian refugee camp, the family came to the United States and eventually settled in California. Although he recognizes the sacrifices made by his parents, he als Vietnamese-American Andrew Pham writes about his search for cultural identity in a book that is both a memoir and a biking travelogue. He remembers the fall of Saigon, his father's imprisonment in a communist reeducation camp, and the family's escape from Vietnam in a leaky fishing boat when he was a ten-year-old. After a stay in an Indonesian refugee camp, the family came to the United States and eventually settled in California. Although he recognizes the sacrifices made by his parents, he also recounts how the Pham children were subjected to his father's temper and beatings. The suicide of his transgendered sibling was the impetus for Andrew Pham's journey of self-discovery. The author quit his job as an aerospace engineer, and traveled by bike up the Pacific Coast, through Japan, and up the length of Vietnam. He visited important places in his family's history and found them completely changed. While he had some enjoyable times, he also saw terrible poverty and extreme corruption. Dysentery was an unwelcome companion over part of the trip. He weaves together two story lines--about his family and about his bike trip. He was called "Viet-kieu" (foreign Vietnamese) in Vietnam, a slur by people who envy his success. In America, he also feels like an outsider. He experiences survivor guilt, explores his roots, and feels the pull of two cultures. He still seems to be searching at the book's end--and maybe it will be a lifelong search--for who he is. Laced with adventure and humor, this was an engaging story that held my interest.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sara Mannheimer

    This book created a clear image of post-war Vietnam, but while I enjoyed following Pham's travels, I never became truly engaged with the book. Although the author constantly reiterated his deep and troubling ambivalence about his native land, his struggle failed to grab my heart. The book contained some scenes that were theoretically poignant and wrenching, but I just didn't think Pham's writing was strong enough to break through the screen of journalistic observation and actually convey authent This book created a clear image of post-war Vietnam, but while I enjoyed following Pham's travels, I never became truly engaged with the book. Although the author constantly reiterated his deep and troubling ambivalence about his native land, his struggle failed to grab my heart. The book contained some scenes that were theoretically poignant and wrenching, but I just didn't think Pham's writing was strong enough to break through the screen of journalistic observation and actually convey authentic emotion.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dana Stabenow

    We have a lot of work to do on race in America. I'm exhausted just thinking about it, but as a white-as-you-can-get-without-bleach American I have to at least show up to read books like these. Because Americans of color and other ethnicities have to live through the brutality of it every day of their lives.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    2.5 stars

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nikki Fordey

    This was a moving and engaging memoir. Mr. Pham is very skilled at vivid description and is careful not to over-sentimentalize the often deeply personal subject matter. He is honest about his family and about his own feelings in a way that is highly admirable. His quest to explore his own identity is something that many people can relate to. Although his situation is rather specific, the book deals with themes that are fairly universal. I would strongly recommend this title to anyone that enjoys This was a moving and engaging memoir. Mr. Pham is very skilled at vivid description and is careful not to over-sentimentalize the often deeply personal subject matter. He is honest about his family and about his own feelings in a way that is highly admirable. His quest to explore his own identity is something that many people can relate to. Although his situation is rather specific, the book deals with themes that are fairly universal. I would strongly recommend this title to anyone that enjoys being entertained while having your own judgments logically challenged.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

    I loved this book! Found it in a hotel in Hanoi, it was the perfect book to read as I returned home and reflected on our trip. Pham captures the rawness, beauty, chaos, and striving that characterized my brief visit better than I ever could. His own story is remarkable: escaped Vietnam with his family after the war, boat nearly sank, refugee in America, growing up in a rough neighborhood, family drama and trauma, and of course his journeys peddling through mexico, the Pacific coast of the us, an I loved this book! Found it in a hotel in Hanoi, it was the perfect book to read as I returned home and reflected on our trip. Pham captures the rawness, beauty, chaos, and striving that characterized my brief visit better than I ever could. His own story is remarkable: escaped Vietnam with his family after the war, boat nearly sank, refugee in America, growing up in a rough neighborhood, family drama and trauma, and of course his journeys peddling through mexico, the Pacific coast of the us, and finally, Vietnam. His writing was beautiful and I felt, deeply, his story of such a necessary journey. Some descriptions I like: "I try to explain to her about life in America. And that I don't know her. I try not to let my disappointment show. I come searching for truths, hoping for redeeming grace, a touch of gentility. But, no. The abrasiveness of Saigon has stripped away my protective layers. I am raw and bare and I ask myself, Who are these strangers? These Vietnamese, these wanting-wanting-wanting-wanting people. The bitter bile of finding a world I don't remember colors my disconsolate reconciliation between my Saigon of Old and their muddy-grubby Saigon of Now. Saigon gnaws at me . . . its noise . . . its uncompromising want . . . its constant . . . Mememememememememememememe . . ." . . . "Could I tell Calvin I was initiated into the American heaven during my first week Stateside by eight black kids who pulverized me in the restroom, calling me Viet Cong? . . . Although we often pretend to be modest and humble as we preen our successful immigrant stories, we rarely admit even to ourselves the circumstances and the cost of our being here. We elude it all like a petty theft committed ages ago. When convenient, we take it as restitution for what happened to Vietnam." In the end, Pham realizes just how "home" America really is-- imperfections and all. I've been happy to feel similarly when returning from my travels, as much as I love being away. "But now, I miss the white, the black, the red, the brown faces of America. I miss their varied shapes, their tumultuous diversity, their idealistic search for racial equality, their bumbling but wonderful pioneering spirit. I miss English words in my ears, miss the way the language rolled off my tongue so naturally. I miss its poetry. Somewhere along the way, my search for roots became my search for home-- a place I know best even though there are those who would have me believe otherwise."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was slow to grow on me; Pham's style of writing seemed choppy at first - it jumped points in time quickly, without much in the way of description. But, as you get into the book, and, of course, when he gets to Vietnam, the story really comes to life. This may simply be because of my own time spent in Vietnam a couple of years ago. His sparse descriptions of life in Saigon and Hanoi evoked my own memories of time spent in those cities. In the end, I came to enjoy his quick descriptions This book was slow to grow on me; Pham's style of writing seemed choppy at first - it jumped points in time quickly, without much in the way of description. But, as you get into the book, and, of course, when he gets to Vietnam, the story really comes to life. This may simply be because of my own time spent in Vietnam a couple of years ago. His sparse descriptions of life in Saigon and Hanoi evoked my own memories of time spent in those cities. In the end, I came to enjoy his quick descriptions and choppy sentences; I don't necessarily think with correct grammar either, and this is a book about a man and his bicycle. About halfway through, I started asking myself what the mandala was. Where is it? Why isn't it mentioned at all in the book? My basic understanding of a mandala was that of a visual representation of the universe and life itself. It's circular and vast, building upon its own inner layers. As I thought about this, I realized that more than anything else, his bike represented the mandala. The wheels brought him full-circle - from America to Vietnam. The journey allowed him to relieve all of the guilt and shame that came with his particular life story: the difficulty adjusting to life in America, coping with being a first son that doesn't live up to expectations, and the suicide of his sister. The constant spinning of his tires brings all these up to the surface and back down again - joy and grief, pleasure and pain, shame and pride. Each one surfaces again and again, and, in the end, he can finally come to terms with the good and bad of every action and decision that led him back to Vietnam.

  10. 5 out of 5

    James

    This book is an exploration of the delusional idea that if we can just get away to someplace exotic, we will discover our true selves and make sense of our lives. Andrew Pham travels to Vietnam (which he and his family escaped around the time of the Vietnam War) tours the country by bicycle, and leaves with an upset stomach and absolutely no understanding of the Vietnamese people. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he hates them. This fact wouldn't sway my feelings about the book one way o This book is an exploration of the delusional idea that if we can just get away to someplace exotic, we will discover our true selves and make sense of our lives. Andrew Pham travels to Vietnam (which he and his family escaped around the time of the Vietnam War) tours the country by bicycle, and leaves with an upset stomach and absolutely no understanding of the Vietnamese people. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he hates them. This fact wouldn't sway my feelings about the book one way or the other. The thing that really kills me is the prose, which is often heavy on nonsensical metaphor. Example: silence is "the gift into which one can cast all one's sorrow like trash into an abyss." All I can picture is an empty Cheetos bag being drawn into a wormhole. The other thing I really hate is that Pham is very willing to air everyone's dirty laundry -- from the suicide of his transgender sibling to his palpable irritation at the impoverished Vietnamese who are constantly trying to part him from his money -- but never allows himself to be examined in the same way. No fewer than three times, Pham describes encounters with prostitutes (who are almost certainly underage indentured servants) and suddenly becomes coy, pulling the scenes up short and never quite owning up to his own exploitative behavior.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Betsy McTiernan

    I found this memoir last week while browsing in a used bookstore. I'm ashamed to say this was my first book about the Vietnam War from the perspective of a Vietnamese. Pham's is the story of a refugee's return to Vietnam in the early 1990s, shortly after the country became open to tourists. Pham, as a young man in his 20s, takes a bike trip around the country hoping to gain insight into his past and to gain perspective on what he has come to view as the dysfunction that is his family. From the f I found this memoir last week while browsing in a used bookstore. I'm ashamed to say this was my first book about the Vietnam War from the perspective of a Vietnamese. Pham's is the story of a refugee's return to Vietnam in the early 1990s, shortly after the country became open to tourists. Pham, as a young man in his 20s, takes a bike trip around the country hoping to gain insight into his past and to gain perspective on what he has come to view as the dysfunction that is his family. From the first,he is dismayed at the poverty he witnesses and resentful of the people, many of whom treat him as a rich traitor--a Viet-kieu-- who deserves to be fleeced like any rich tourist. In exquisite, often grueling detail, he weaves these travel stories with his memories--of his childhood years in Saigon,of his family's escape,and of refugeee life in California. Slowly, buried in the daily grind of surviving on the road, emerges the story of the particular tragedy of the Pham family. Awarded the Pacific Rim Book Prize of 1999, Pham's memoir is among the best I have read, both for its courageous honesty and engaging prose.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lars Guthrie

    Vietnam seems to be calling me recently. The graphic novel of "Artemis Fowl" startles me with its opening depiction of the central market in Saigon. A student researches Nixon's presidency and the fall of Saigon. I read "Tree of Smoke," and go to the internet to pull up maps, pictures and stories of Saigon, its surroundings, and the larger Mekong delta region, to look at the places I saw so many years ago (1969-1970). I am drawn into this work, on a summer reading list for another student. Pham Vietnam seems to be calling me recently. The graphic novel of "Artemis Fowl" startles me with its opening depiction of the central market in Saigon. A student researches Nixon's presidency and the fall of Saigon. I read "Tree of Smoke," and go to the internet to pull up maps, pictures and stories of Saigon, its surroundings, and the larger Mekong delta region, to look at the places I saw so many years ago (1969-1970). I am drawn into this work, on a summer reading list for another student. Pham seamlessly interweaves who he is today (bravely exposing his flaws), his homeland as he tours it, mostly by bike, and his family's troubled history and extraordinary escape as boat people, with insight and humor. While recommending the book to another Vietnamese expatriate, the father of one my students, he tells me about his own amazing journey to America, just as harrowing and dramatic as that of Pham's. And he lends me a DVD of the excellent and moving movie about the boat people, "Journey from the Fall." Read the book; see the movie.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kit

    Catfish and Mandala is a lovely book. I read it slowly so it wouldn't end. From the first page, I was engrossed in the story of one man's attempt to make sense of his past and his present by integrating the two parts with a return trip to Vietnam, twenty years after his family fled. A gifted storyteller, Pham describes unflinchingly the details of his childhood in Vietnam, family life in a traditional Vietnamese family, the struggles of being an immigrant in southern California and the poverty a Catfish and Mandala is a lovely book. I read it slowly so it wouldn't end. From the first page, I was engrossed in the story of one man's attempt to make sense of his past and his present by integrating the two parts with a return trip to Vietnam, twenty years after his family fled. A gifted storyteller, Pham describes unflinchingly the details of his childhood in Vietnam, family life in a traditional Vietnamese family, the struggles of being an immigrant in southern California and the poverty and corruption and sweetness of modern Vietnam. Reading this account while traveling through Vietnam as a first-time visitor, it feels like Pham got it just right. He describes his adventures as a viet-kieu (expatriated Vietnamese) with the voice of an insider looking at it from the outside - and the result is very compelling. I was happy to find it among the collection of badly photocopied books available from a Hanoi street vendor...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I liked this book. I would have loved this book except that after "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Wild" it is one more memoir in which the author takes an exotic journey to "find himself." In this case, Andrew Pham bicycles through Vietnam in search of his cultural roots. Along the way we are introduced to his family and a past that includes abuse, scandal, shame, and regret. Pham was a boy when his family emigrated from Vietnam via a rickety fishing boat in the middle of the night. He is in his mid- to I liked this book. I would have loved this book except that after "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Wild" it is one more memoir in which the author takes an exotic journey to "find himself." In this case, Andrew Pham bicycles through Vietnam in search of his cultural roots. Along the way we are introduced to his family and a past that includes abuse, scandal, shame, and regret. Pham was a boy when his family emigrated from Vietnam via a rickety fishing boat in the middle of the night. He is in his mid- to late-20s when he returns retracing his steps to his eventual escape, trying to come to terms with the world he left behind. The food scenes were among my favorite passages. Clearly food is a memory trigger for Pham and those passages were my favorite. I wish I'd read this before "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Wild" because the author writes well and his story is compelling. (And I think I like this book better than either of those.) I hate to say that reading other books in the same genre diminishes this one because this one isn't like the others exactly, but it was close enough in theme to give me deja vu. And I don't think that's the kind of mandala the author was referring to in his title.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Autumn

    I read this many years ago, around the time it first came out. From what I remember the language is beautiful. It is heartfelt and touching, yet somehow still remaining distant. I feel this is the point. After all, no matter how close humans get to figuring our own lives and humanity out, we never receive full disclosure, do we? Sometimes I wonder if I went overseas to the places of my ancestors would I feel more at home? Would I find some lost part of my self that I left there? Would I make more I read this many years ago, around the time it first came out. From what I remember the language is beautiful. It is heartfelt and touching, yet somehow still remaining distant. I feel this is the point. After all, no matter how close humans get to figuring our own lives and humanity out, we never receive full disclosure, do we? Sometimes I wonder if I went overseas to the places of my ancestors would I feel more at home? Would I find some lost part of my self that I left there? Would I make more sense to myself? This type of personal searching and eloquent language (some thought provoking lines and beautiful descriptions) are what I remember from reading it long, long ago.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cora

    andrew pham is a really great writer!! i honestly wasn't expecting his writing to be as good as it was. i also didn't realize how multifaceted the story would be, i kind of just assumed it would strictly be about the experience of biking through vietnam. it actually had a lot of really interesting and emotional family history intertwined with the trip itself. a very honest account of his feelings about being vietnamese-american/being around vietnamese people. the story perfectly culminated in a andrew pham is a really great writer!! i honestly wasn't expecting his writing to be as good as it was. i also didn't realize how multifaceted the story would be, i kind of just assumed it would strictly be about the experience of biking through vietnam. it actually had a lot of really interesting and emotional family history intertwined with the trip itself. a very honest account of his feelings about being vietnamese-american/being around vietnamese people. the story perfectly culminated in a really beautiful/painful conversation.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Danny Schiff

    While leading a summer community service trip throughout Vietnam, this felt like the perfect companion memoir for the long flights and bus rides throughout the country. I expected this book to be a bit more about his bicycle adventure throughout Vietnam, which only sort of ebbed and flowed as the main theme. But Pham dealt with his personal and family cultural identity in this book, as he does not quite feel wholly American nor Vietnamese.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Trung Tran

    overall a very well written book that takes you through Andrew Pham's journey for self identity, rediscovering his past all the while trying to come to grips with his life and family in the US. The chapters alternate between his past and present, which keeps you hooked. His descriptions and adventures through Vietnam are very vivid and has even helped me understand the culture and etiquette of Vietnam more thoroughly, I highly recommend it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Chappell

    And Goodreads eats another review ... sigh. Short version: an excellent account of the author's exploration of what it means to be both Vietnamese and American. Pham's quest to find himself reveals enormous insight into both Vietnamese and American culture; it helps that he is an excellent writer and pays no heed to political correctness -- there is no sugarcoating in Catfish and Mandala. This ... this is what travel writing should be.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alli Sullivan

    It was a fun read and eye opening to the struggles of a Vietnamese-American straddling two worlds...plus a bunch of other life experiences and whatnot. I'd recommend it, but I'm not sure to who. To both everyone and no one I guess, it doesn't seem to fit in many categories in my head.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Schuberino

    Loved it! It occurs to me that this is my first travelogue! Anyways, I'm not sure why I wasn't drawn to this genre before, but if this is what travel writing is about - I'm completely hooked. My rating is likely influenced by the fact that I've spent a lot of time in Vietnam this year, and finished the book in one of it's cafes. But beyond that, I felt the writing was fantastic and the identity crisis at its heart was truly engaging. I have a much richer understanding of Vietnam, and the struggle Loved it! It occurs to me that this is my first travelogue! Anyways, I'm not sure why I wasn't drawn to this genre before, but if this is what travel writing is about - I'm completely hooked. My rating is likely influenced by the fact that I've spent a lot of time in Vietnam this year, and finished the book in one of it's cafes. But beyond that, I felt the writing was fantastic and the identity crisis at its heart was truly engaging. I have a much richer understanding of Vietnam, and the struggle for Vietnamese Americans following the war. As an aside - I think the entire section on Japan could have easily been skipped.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Many people, especially in their 20s, embark on long treks across various regions of the world in search of something.... adventure? home? revelation? identity? In the case of Andrew Pham, his trip by bicycle across Vietnam involves all of the above. His family escaped from Vietnam on a rickety boat after the fall of Saigon, and, after several years in a refugee camp in Indonesia, immigrated to the United States. Twenty-odd years later, Andrew returns to Vietnam, now an adult on his own and as n Many people, especially in their 20s, embark on long treks across various regions of the world in search of something.... adventure? home? revelation? identity? In the case of Andrew Pham, his trip by bicycle across Vietnam involves all of the above. His family escaped from Vietnam on a rickety boat after the fall of Saigon, and, after several years in a refugee camp in Indonesia, immigrated to the United States. Twenty-odd years later, Andrew returns to Vietnam, now an adult on his own and as not only a Vietnamese but a Vietnamese-American. They hyphen between those two identities is the axis on which much of his journey of self-discovery turns. What makes this book so powerful is that we are not reading the account of a developing country by a completely removed outsider. Instead, Andrew weaves his own family's traumatic past in with his current adventures. As he comments on himself, he is both insider and outsider. I really appreciated his descriptions of the clash of his American "wealth" as it stands in stark contrast to the poverty of most of Vietnam. He openly talks about his discomforts, his confusions, his exasperations, his hopes, his disappointments... everything. We realize as his trip progresses and the story of his family's life unfolds, that there is a deep well of pain not only inside of him but perhaps inside of Vietnam's national identity as a whole that aches to be healed. Also, Pham's writing is fantastic. It is rich in descriptive imagery, and he takes the use of active verbs to an entirely new level. I want to pull some of his paragraphs to use with my seniors next fall when I am teaching them how to use active verbs effectively in their college essays. I'll leave you with a taste: "After Nha Trang, the land dries up. The sky hurts with a whispering blue. The air chafes, a marine tinge, rough on its hot grainy edge. Down by the strung-out coast, the sea lies open, three shades deeper than the bright above. The road is black and broad, curving round sandstone mountains and cutting straight through the flat beige stretches. Suong rong -- dragon bones, squatty Vietnamese cacti -- cast the vast empty into a shallow prickly graveyard. They say dragons came here to die. The land scorched itself in sorrow over the great beasts' passing" (p. 335).

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    3.5 stars. Catfish and Mandala is a travelogue of Andrew Pham’s cycling trip through Vietnam and serves as a launching pad for excavating his family’s past. Because he’s Vietnamese American, he gets treated with resentment from the Vietnamese who stayed but because he is also a partial native, he gains access to a part of Vietnam that most Western tourists wouldn’t get to witness. Like many Asian American stories, Pham is searching for home, a place where he doesn’t feel like an outsider. He spe 3.5 stars. Catfish and Mandala is a travelogue of Andrew Pham’s cycling trip through Vietnam and serves as a launching pad for excavating his family’s past. Because he’s Vietnamese American, he gets treated with resentment from the Vietnamese who stayed but because he is also a partial native, he gains access to a part of Vietnam that most Western tourists wouldn’t get to witness. Like many Asian American stories, Pham is searching for home, a place where he doesn’t feel like an outsider. He speaks about his Asian American experience with passion, simplicity, specificity, and insight and he excels at description and metaphor, evoking an emotional response from me even when he doesn’t offer too much of his own emotions. His description of his family and their struggles as new immigrants are particularly poignant. And I think he was really honest in how he expresses the guilt he feels about being the oldest son, a fraud, and a failure in the eyes of his parents. I feel like Pham is also trying to come to terms with the death of his sister as well. I was particularly interested his relationship with Chi and I like how admits he is not the authentic eldest son because his older sister should have been it. I started off really excited by this book because I identified with Pham’s descriptions of his immigrant family and his struggle with trying to find himself. But after about 100 pages my excitement started to wane because he kept on cutting from past to present to dreamlike chapters—he builds up the suspense in a past event and switches to the present and by the time he gets back to the past the momentum is lost. The book was an honest portrayal of his experience but some parts lacked emotional depth. I wanted less description of his bowel movements and almost getting his ass kicked by drunken Vietnamese men and more about his emotional journey. A perfect description of eating star fruits: “The fruit tasted sun-baked, for in full ripeness it was golden, the color of cloud underbellies tickled by a slanting sun. It had a flowery texture halfway between a melon and an apple, though it was less substantial that either. Its juice was sharp, indecisive between sour and sweet, resulting in a dizzied tanginess….

  24. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I have a thing against being a tourist. I like moving to new places, but I want to actually live there, not just see the surface of other people's lives from the outside looking in. Reading this book had me thinking about some of the limitations of that approach - how impossible it can be to become a local. Our author takes a bicycle trip up the Western coast of the USA, through Japan, and then around Vietnam. Descriptions of his journey are interspersed with memories of his early childhood in Vi I have a thing against being a tourist. I like moving to new places, but I want to actually live there, not just see the surface of other people's lives from the outside looking in. Reading this book had me thinking about some of the limitations of that approach - how impossible it can be to become a local. Our author takes a bicycle trip up the Western coast of the USA, through Japan, and then around Vietnam. Descriptions of his journey are interspersed with memories of his early childhood in Vietnam, and then growing up as an immigrant in the USA. And repeatedly we're reminded that the author is an outsider wherever he is - the names he's called, the way he's charged the extra "foreigner" fee throughout Vietnam, the way he spends most of his trip ill because his body is not used to the microorganisms in the food he's eating. We're reminded again and again that it doesn't matter if you know the language, have an understanding of the culture, were actually born and have family in that location... if you leave, when you return you will be different from everyone who stayed. I think the fact that our author feels like an outsider makes him a better writer. He's able to notice and record all sorts of interesting details that probably wouldn't be noteworthy to someone surrounded by them on a daily basis. I think this holds true for the memoir part of the book as well - he's able to bring a more nuanced perspective to his memories because he can look at them through multiple lenses - as an American, as a Vietnamese. Some of this book is rather dismal. Pham doesn't paint the most flattering picture of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people. As an outsider who can't really judge how accurate this is, I'm going to give him credit for not sugar-coating his impressions. And the book does end on a hopeful note, with a suggestion that he did learn something important from the whole ordeal. Final verdict: I'd love to spend time in Vietnam, but after reading this book, I know I won't be doing it solo on a bicycle. I might even want to stick to the more touristy places. But I'm glad Pham did it, and wrote a book about it, so I can have a glimpse, through his eyes, of what it was like.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Claire Enders

    This book is far more than just a tale about traveling through Vietnam by bike. It is a beautifully crafted story that traverses time, countries, cultures, and historical events. It can be hard to believe that it’s not a work of fiction. At times funny, heartbreaking, suspenseful - but always moving.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jared Della Rocca

    Wow, this was a really incredible book. Pham has a tight narrative that jumps timelines between the present, his childhood in Vietnam, and then his early life in the United States. While his main theme is, in my opinion, about the disconnect between the young immigrant and his homeland, he also dealt well with family relationships, particularly Vietnamese, immigrants and their new home, the spectacle of poverty, and the relations between the Vietnamese and Americans. There were many different ti Wow, this was a really incredible book. Pham has a tight narrative that jumps timelines between the present, his childhood in Vietnam, and then his early life in the United States. While his main theme is, in my opinion, about the disconnect between the young immigrant and his homeland, he also dealt well with family relationships, particularly Vietnamese, immigrants and their new home, the spectacle of poverty, and the relations between the Vietnamese and Americans. There were many different times in the book where he'd write a passage so tight but so profound I just had to pause and reflect on it. There was so much that just exceeded the boundaries of the book and became universal. Of all the themes, and keeping in mind the universality, I think his most profound was, what I will call, the roll of the dice. There were numerous times where Pham would meet someone his own age in Vietnam, usually poor, and when talking to them would be struck that the roles could easily have been reversed, and he was living in poverty talking to a returned immigrant. Recently I've been thinking about "America for Americans" and this entitlement mentality when, for the vast majority of Americans, they are Americans because of absolutely nothing they did. They happened to be born here and thus feel entitled to all it offers, when they could just as easily have been born to a different couple someplace else. This entitlement that we deserve the fruits of America's labor because of a fluke of birth is really not something I think holds much water. And so Pham recognizing that it was really through the efforts of his parents that he arrived in America really rang true for me. Overall an excellent work, very easy to read, very enjoyable, and so highly recommended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steven Tomcavage

    After months of guilt over not making better progress in this book, I'm calling it quits on "Catfish and Mandala". There are two stories in this book, and like a lot of books with two story lines, one is a great read and the other feels like a slog through the mud. In "Catfish and Mandala", there is a story about the book's author, a self-centered young adult going on a "rebel's" journey to his homeland of Vietnam. This story was far too bitter and narcissistic to be enjoyable. The author really After months of guilt over not making better progress in this book, I'm calling it quits on "Catfish and Mandala". There are two stories in this book, and like a lot of books with two story lines, one is a great read and the other feels like a slog through the mud. In "Catfish and Mandala", there is a story about the book's author, a self-centered young adult going on a "rebel's" journey to his homeland of Vietnam. This story was far too bitter and narcissistic to be enjoyable. The author really needs to do some deep soul searching, and not just the surface level plumbs represented in this book. As a reader, I really don't care that the author ran away from home on his bike to another country as a young adult while trying to pacify the lack of control he felt as a child, and the author does nothing to bring me to the point of caring. The author does, however, write very movingly about his father's journey to escape Vietnam with his family at the close of war in the 1970s. I only made it halfway through the book, but the father's struggles are enthralling to read. I only wish is comprised a larger chunk of the book. Because the book had those fascinating glimpses into another world, I bumped my rating up to 2 stars.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stan

    This book was left to me by a friend who was passing through Singapore in early 2008. I started the book about that time but only just completed it. Not that it was unreadable or anything like that. In fact, I enjoyed it. (Another friend who visited me finished the book in a day.) It's just that the story never developed a tempo/pace that propelled me forward. It's a book about identity and history, about self, about family and all the things we don't say but wish was understood. The book is also This book was left to me by a friend who was passing through Singapore in early 2008. I started the book about that time but only just completed it. Not that it was unreadable or anything like that. In fact, I enjoyed it. (Another friend who visited me finished the book in a day.) It's just that the story never developed a tempo/pace that propelled me forward. It's a book about identity and history, about self, about family and all the things we don't say but wish was understood. The book is also a travelogue of a Viet-American's journey and exploration of Vietnam, of memory versus reality. In some ways, it's the typical Asian American, who-am-I, what-am-I-looking-for, where-do-i-belong book. (Is it me or do Asian Americans go on this search for "self" a lot?) It's an easy read, at times fun and, at others, bland. I found the experiences about a Viet-Kieu traveling in Vietnam and the animosity he encounters more interesting than the soul-searching. Not to discount these personal, family moments. They just didn't interest me as much. Experienced and written about 10 years ago, I wonder how and if attitudes towards Viet-Kieu's have changed since?

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    More memoir than travelogue, the author struggles with the burdens of being an immigrant to America (a refugee from Vietnam), a violent old-fashioned and tormented father (who survived the reeducation camps), a transgendered sister who killed himself, and two gay brothers. This is not a happy, lighthearted tromp to an idyllic foreign country described by a wide-eyed American tourist. The family history and personal memoirs are interwoven with the tale of his soul-searching bicycling trip through More memoir than travelogue, the author struggles with the burdens of being an immigrant to America (a refugee from Vietnam), a violent old-fashioned and tormented father (who survived the reeducation camps), a transgendered sister who killed himself, and two gay brothers. This is not a happy, lighthearted tromp to an idyllic foreign country described by a wide-eyed American tourist. The family history and personal memoirs are interwoven with the tale of his soul-searching bicycling trip through modern Vietnam. The work is that much more fascinating in its unflattering description of the Vietnamese and their country. Not an easy read in some respects, but revealing, not only about the country, but himself. I will be mightily unhappy if this turns out to be a work of fiction, like so many other recent nonfictional accounts. There is so much detail, little beautiful nuggets. I would think it a good book for travelers thinking of tackling Vietnam, or any Third World country. Much animus is aimed at the lazy, corrupt officials (especially the police), who siphon off money from tourists and citizens alike.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    This book added more fuel to a fire I had to bike across Vietnam. (Someday, when I'm gray.) However Catfish and Mandala is more than cultural travelogue. Mr. Pham so eloquently ponders the complicated experience of never quite finding "home". An immigrant to the United States when he was a child, a trip to his parents' homeland was meant to be a reconnection with his roots. Sadly, a need for belonging felt keenly during his transplanted American childhood is never fully satisfied upon his return This book added more fuel to a fire I had to bike across Vietnam. (Someday, when I'm gray.) However Catfish and Mandala is more than cultural travelogue. Mr. Pham so eloquently ponders the complicated experience of never quite finding "home". An immigrant to the United States when he was a child, a trip to his parents' homeland was meant to be a reconnection with his roots. Sadly, a need for belonging felt keenly during his transplanted American childhood is never fully satisfied upon his return to Vietnam. In my tiny opinion, Mr. Pham is so unfairly blessed with fearless talent and rebellious intellect that he might be too smart for his own good. He's also biked across Mexico and Japan, built his own home by hand, pursued a dual degree in aerospace engineering along with his Masters degree in writing, and published a cookbook. A mind such as his, endlessly examines the complex cultural ironies and shades of meaning in the smallest details. It made for a bittersweet read and his view of the world is utterly unique.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In order to read or download eBook, you need to create FREE account.
eBook available in PDF, ePub, MOBI and Kindle versions



Loading...