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 th...moreVietnamese-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.(less)
What a wonderful, inspiring book! Conor Grennan wanted to see the world so he took a year off from working. He decided to volunteer...moreRecommended by Will
What a wonderful, inspiring book! Conor Grennan wanted to see the world so he took a year off from working. He decided to volunteer at the Little Princes Children's Home in Nepal for three months before continuing on his world tour.
The children in the home were not actually orphans. Child traffickers had told their families that they would take their children from the unsafe villages during the civil war for a price. The traffickers promised the parents that the children would have safe homes in Kathmandu with plenty of food and good schooling. But the children were abandoned or kept in wretched conditions once they reached the city of Kathmandu.
Conor had never worked with children before, but he fell in love with them. Most of the children were boys since the parents were trying to protect them from being forced to be soldiers in the Maoist army, and they were also more apt to send the boys to school. Conor made it his mission to find the families of these children so that they could be eventually reunited. He treked through the dangerous mountains of Nepal with a painful knee injury to the villages of the children's parents.
He also met the woman of his dreams during this time. Liz had done volunteer work as a humanitarian in Third World countries as well. An e-mail relationship progressed from friendship to romance.
Conor and his French friend Farid founded the non-profit organization Next Generation Nepal (NGN). The group opened another home for the children, and is still working to reunite chilren with their parents in the mountainous villages.
Conor's story is told with humility and self-deprecating humor. The love he has for these children shines throughout the book. There is also plenty of adventure and adjustment as he describes his travels through the mountains of Nepal, deals with government officials, learns to live with the slower pace of Nepal time, and deals with sub-standard medical care. This is a very special book that we all should read. _______________________________ More to read or view:
"Children of God" is a documentary film about the children who live on the sacred grounds of a Hindu temple in Katmandu next to a river where funeral rites are carried out. Great sums of money are spent to honor the dead, while the children resort to begging and stealing funeral offerings.(less)
In addition to seafood recipes, this book included lots of information about the various types of shellfish and fin fish found mainly along the Atlant...moreIn addition to seafood recipes, this book included lots of information about the various types of shellfish and fin fish found mainly along the Atlantic coast. There were lots of interesting historical tidbits, such as the fact that lobsters were considered a poor man's food in the 1700s, fed to prisoners and servants and used to fertilize fields. There were also historical photos of boats used for fishing provided by Mystic Seaport, a wonderful maritime museum in southeastern Connecticut.(less)
When her mother died when she was twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed's life fell apart. Her family went in different directions, and she ruined her marriage w...moreWhen her mother died when she was twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed's life fell apart. Her family went in different directions, and she ruined her marriage with drugs and casual sex with other men. After the divorce, she decided to find herself by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She started at the Mojave Desert in California, and headed north through Oregon to the Washington state border. As an inexperienced hiker, she started by carrying an enormously heavy pack and wearing hiking shoes that were a bit too small. But she had tremendous resolve, and persisted in her hike despite the heat, painful feet, and dangerous snowy conditions in the mountains. She met wonderful, helpful people along the trail and enjoyed the rugged beauty of the PCT. The story is told with honesty and humor as Cheryl matured emotionally on the long-distance hike. She also made peace with the loss of her beloved mother. This was an interesting and entertaining memoir.(less)
Jan Mann has compiled a fun group of places to visit in Connecticut. For each trip, she gives an enthusiastic description of the attraction, a good pl...moreJan Mann has compiled a fun group of places to visit in Connecticut. For each trip, she gives an enthusiastic description of the attraction, a good place to picnic, and recipes that would be appropriate for the picnic. She includes recipes that would appeal to many age groups. I bought this book at an author's talk where she brought yummy treats made from several of her recipes. Even though I've lived in Connecticut for years, this book introduced me to some "off the beaten track" attractions that I'm looking foreward to visiting. (less)
Jack Kerouac based this book on a series of trips he took alone or with Neal Cassady across the United States and down to Mexico City. Full of youthfu...moreJack Kerouac based this book on a series of trips he took alone or with Neal Cassady across the United States and down to Mexico City. Full of youthful exhuberance, the fictional Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity want to experience life at top speed with binges of drinking, drugs, casual sex, and crazy driving. Running out of money constantly, they crash at their friends' homes, sleep in the car, and pick up hitchhikers for gas money. Avoiding tourist traps, they meet people who pick crops, work on the railroad, and frequent neighborhood jazz bars. The description of the jazz musicians are mind-blowing, and left me feeling like I sat through a few sets of great improvisation. I also especially enjoyed the descriptions of their trip through Mexico--the reader can feel the heat, hear the mambo music, see the mournful brown eyes of the Mexicans, and feel the onslaught of large insects in the night.
"On the Road" is probably the most important novel of the Beat literary movement of 1946-60. During that post-World War II era, many people were going after the material success of the American Dream. But the Beats were a bohemian bunch searching for freedom and experience, often in hedonistic excess.(less)