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Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora
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Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora

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3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  164 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Cultural Writing. Asian American Studies. In his long-overdue first collection of essays, noted journalist and NPR commentator Andrew Lam explores his life-long struggle for identity as a Viet Kieu, or a Vietnamese national living abroad. At age eleven, Lam, the son of a South Vietnamese general, came to California on the eve of the fall of Saigon to communist forces. He t ...more
Paperback, 143 pages
Published October 21st 2005 by Heyday Books
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Wade
Aug 29, 2007 Wade rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Moo
Dec 13, 2016 Moo rated it it was amazing
At first I was worried that this book might centralize a bruised machismo, not only because the author is male but because his father is a former southern Vietnamese war general, which could have lead to a lateral drawn-out story of redemption. Lam instead writes well on the complexities of "becoming" that grapple with a new language and Western modernization, and opportunities of creative expression or reinventing, while being sensitive to filial duties, acts of betrayal, dismantling Confucian ...more
Karin
Nov 22, 2012 Karin rated it it was amazing
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 li ...more
Andrew
Dec 29, 2010 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
since i wrote it, i suppose i'm a bit bias. Lol...
RYCJ
Jan 10, 2010 RYCJ rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-keepers
HEARTFELT
Lam's writing is deeply moving. Going beneath an often impenetrable silence Lam reincarnates with passion, not only for himself and his family, but for many others as well, what it `feels' like to be an immigrant in America from Vietnam.

The stories are touching and genuine; the burning of the family memoirs and photos... painful. Trying to assimilate in American culture by telling wartime stories to assume popularity with classmates...tear-jerking, along with his first act of betrayal
...more
Tara
Jun 23, 2008 Tara rated it really liked it
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.
Jocelyn Lee
Apr 14, 2010 Jocelyn Lee rated it liked it
When I read Perfume Dreams I got the sense that Lam wrote all these articles at different times, and independently, later gathering them into a book. Read together the articles are a bit redundant, although each article does have something unique to it.
The writing style isn't really my cup of tea but he does do beautiful things with language.
Isabelle
Feb 24, 2008 Isabelle rated it it was amazing
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.
Krystal Hammond
Jun 06, 2010 Krystal Hammond rated it it was amazing
Read it for an anthropology class, and I actually liked it. If you want to understand the Vietnamese diaspora and the 1.5 generation, I highly recommend this book.
Karen Wilber
Nov 30, 2015 Karen Wilber rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-2016
Worth the read, but I got 100x more from Catfish and Mandala.
Steve
Feb 09, 2017 Steve rated it it was ok
A collection of essays relating to the Vietnamese-American experience, this book is well-written but I found the structure (or lack of) not very conducive for creating a big picture. A little fractured, maybe that was the intent though.
Walk-Minh Allen
Feb 06, 2011 Walk-Minh Allen rated it really liked it
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 refl ...more
James
Jul 13, 2008 James rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jean
Mar 26, 2015 Jean rated it really liked it
"The greatest phenomenon in this century, I am convinced, has little to do with the world wars but with the dispossessed they sent fleeing; the Cold War and its aftermath has given birth to a race of children born "elsewhere," of transnationals whose memories are layered and whose biographies transgress national boundaries." In richly evocative language, Lam describes his own experience and that of other Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Americans since the war whose location is the sum of what most Ame ...more
Sheabody
Jun 24, 2016 Sheabody rated it it was amazing
Very thoughtful, autobiographical essays from the perspective of a Vietnamese American journalist. Andrew Lam straddles different, sometimes conflicting, identities: Viet Kieu, journalist, American, Vietnamese. In one essay, he declines interviewing the family of Vietnamese American gangsters because the American journalist in him clashes with his identity as a Vietnamese. Andrew Lam is compassionate and sympathetic and empathetic. In addition to being an excellent writer, he comes across as a v ...more
Sally
Jun 27, 2008 Sally rated it really liked it
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 sure
Alice
Nov 23, 2009 Alice rated it really liked it
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.
Jim
Nov 19, 2007 Jim rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, asia
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.

Marissa
Apr 25, 2011 Marissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
iamtedae
Mar 24, 2007 iamtedae rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of history/biography
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.
krystal
This book is excellent. Andrew Lam makes you feel simultaneously soaring above the glittering streaks of the ocean and shuffling through the dirt of a refugee camp -- it's the before and after of becoming an immigrant. He bottled the diasporic essence and spilled it across these pages.
Ray
Apr 15, 2011 Ray rated it really liked it
This is a nice story about Andrew's experience fleeing Vietnam at the end of the war and his experiences as a foreigner is California.
Theresa
Aug 22, 2012 Theresa rated it it was amazing
Another wonderful book that fed my fascination with Vietnam, as well as the Vietnamese American experience.
Amy
May 14, 2015 Amy rated it liked it
Some of the essays, especially early in the book, are very poignant and provide clarity on the Vietnamese diaspora. I was less interested in many in the middle, but it got good again at the end.
David
David rated it liked it
Apr 06, 2015
Heather
Heather rated it liked it
Aug 23, 2010
Crystal
Crystal rated it really liked it
Apr 12, 2008
Jill T.
Jill T. rated it really liked it
Oct 19, 2014
amy
amy rated it it was ok
Oct 21, 2009
Féline
Féline rated it liked it
Aug 19, 2009
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Andrew Lamis a writer and an editor with the Pacific News Service, a short story writer, and, for 8 years, a commentator on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” He co-founded New America Media, an association of over 2000 ethnic media organizations in America.

Lam's first short story collection, “Birds of Paradise Lost” was published March 01, 2013 and won a Gold Medal from UC Irvine f
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“Precious things lost are transmutable. They refuse oblivion. They simply wait to be rendered into testimonies, into stories and songs.” 10 likes
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