Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam
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...more
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....more
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...more
However, this book did make me think about the tourist experience. Of course, I bring my own biases to my trip. So I need to stay aware of those biases and try not to let them influence my views of the Vietnamese people too much. I...more
"For some of us, by returning as tourists we prove to ourselves that we are no longer Vietnamese but Vietnamese Americans. We return, with our hearts in our throats, to taunt the Communist regime, to show through our material success that we, the once pitiful exiles, are now the victors. No longer the poverty-stricken refugees clinging to fishing boats, spilling out of cargo planes onto American soil, a mess of open-mouthed terror, wide-eyed awe, hung...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...more
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.
He employs a lot of flashbacks throughout the book, which I didn't mind in the beginning, but by the last third I realized I expected the story to find more footing. It felt muddled and a little insignificant in the middle and towards the end, and it left quite a few unanswered questions. There...more
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...more
Some stories you read to get to the end or to find out what happens next. Though there were very interesting parts, this was not the case with this book. I do feel that I've learned all that I want to know about Vietnam, especially the food (the descriptions were so good it made my stomach hurt and not in a good way). I do feel...more
I started reading this on...more
The problem is that the author, An Pham, doesn't really want to write a straight up travel book. He changes the elements a bit by getting himself a tricked out touring bike which he proceeds to ride across most of the country, visiting places like Saigon, Hanoi and Hue. So the book is kind of about the quirky culture sh...more
He travels from the Pacific rim to Vietnam, biking 2,357 miles to arrive in to his final destination, the motherland, where he visits notable places such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and Hanoi, to name a few.
Pham camps out most of the time in a pup tent, in ditches, and eventually meets up with friends in Vietnam that provide many andecdotal...more