Stealing Buddha’s Dinner (Nguyen)

This book tells a story that I hadn’t heard before, so that’s always a plus. A Vietnamese family flees Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War and ends up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our protagonist, Bich, tries hard to fit in and to replace the mother that has been, for circumstances only revealed near the end of the book, left behind. Her father tries to do the latter as well, and so Bich ends up with a Latina stepmother named Rosa. The divisions within Bich and the divisions within her family become even more barbed. Still, Bich manages, using the lens of food (lots and lots of food), to survive an awkward adolescence.

Nguyen’s writing is good, if a bit repetitive in places. Just when I was ready for the book to end, she raised her prose up a notch, the reflective tone bringing out the best in her work.

I’m looking forward to trying to teach it.


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