Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  113 ratings  ·  18 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 31st 2005 by Heyday Books
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Perfume Dreams, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Perfume Dreams

The Quiet American by Graham GreeneAbsolutely Nothing by Mark A. CooperParadise of the Blind by Dương Thu HươngA Bright Shining Lie by Neil SheehanNovel Without a Name by Dương Thu Hương
Best Books on Vietnam
42nd out of 138 books — 80 voters
The Quiet American by Graham GreeneThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienAbsolutely Nothing by Mark A. CooperMatterhorn by Karl MarlantesA Rumor Of War by Philip Caputo
Cambodia and Vietnam
74th out of 122 books — 103 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 254)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
Karin C.
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
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
Jocelyn Lee
Lam wrote eloquently, and skilfully delineated his views. I enjoyed reading his articles. Yes, articles, not stories. 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 excessively repeat Lam's main points on his own family issues and struggle to discover himself as a Vietnamese immigrant. However, at the same time, all articles have new elements too them, like the hostag...more
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.
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
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.
Dec 29, 2010 Andrew rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
since i wrote it, i suppose i'm a bit bias. Lol...
Walk-Minh Allen
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
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
Brilliant author
Of course, this subject interests me very much. The Vietnamese 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
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.
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.

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.
Sep 24, 2007 iamtedae rated it 2 of 5 stars
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.
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.
Another wonderful book that fed my fascination with Vietnam, as well as the Vietnamese American experience.
Eliseo marked it as to-read
Sep 21, 2014
Jennings Peeler
Jennings Peeler marked it as to-read
Sep 21, 2014
Lrsdk added it
Sep 20, 2014
Lizhengyuan is currently reading it
Sep 16, 2014
Jacqueline Huynh
Jacqueline Huynh marked it as to-read
Sep 09, 2014
Pedro Jimenez
Pedro Jimenez marked it as to-read
Sep 04, 2014
Kikidee marked it as to-read
Aug 29, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
Richard Rodriguez is an American writer who became famous as the author of Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (1982). His work has appeared in Harper's, The American Scholar, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and The New Republic. Richard's awards include the Frankel Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the International Journalism Award from the World Affairs C...more
More about Richard Rodriguez...
Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez Brown: The Last Discovery of America Days of Obligation: An Argument With My Mexican Father Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography Hunger of Memory Publisher: Bantam

Share This Book

“Precious things lost are transmutable. They refuse oblivion. They simply wait to be rendered into testimonies, into stories and songs.” 9 likes
More quotes…