Catfish and Mandala: Book summary and reviews of Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham

Catfish and Mandala

A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

By Andrew X. Pham

Catfish and Mandala
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  • Published in USA  Sep 1999,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

A Vietnamese Bicycle Days by a stunning new voice in American letters.

Andrew X. Pham dreamed of becoming a writer. Born in Vietnam and raised in California, he held technical jobs at United Airlines - and always carried a letter of resignation in his briefcase. His father had been a POW of the Vietcong; his family came to America as "boat people." His sister committed suicide, prompting Andrew to quit his job. He sold all of his possessions and embarked on a year-long bicycle journey that took him through the Mexican desert, where he was treated as a bueno hermano, a "good brother"; around a thousand-mile loop from Narita to Kyoto in Japan; and, after five months and 2,357 miles, to Saigon, where he finds "nothing familiar in the bombed-out darkness."

In Mexico he's treated kindly as a Vietnamito, though he shouts, "I'm American, Vietnamese American!" In Vietnam, he's taken for Japanese or Korean by his countrymen, except, of course, by his relatives, who doubt that as a Vietnamese he has the stamina to complete his journey ("Only Westerners can do it"); and in the United States he's considered anything but American. A vibrant, picaresque memoir written with narrative flair and a wonderful, eye-opening sense of adventure, Catfish and Mandala is an unforgettable search for cultural identity.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In writing a sensitive, revealing book about cultural identity, Pham also succeeds in creating an exciting adventure story." - Publishers Weekly.

"Clearly, this is no sentimental journey; Pham's is a soul divided. He's a contentious guide, but the journey is heartrending and invaluable." - Library Journal.

"A modern Plutarch might pair Pham's story with that of Chris McCandless, the uncompromising young man whose spiritual quest led him to a forlorn death in Alaska, Pham, instead of seeking out remote places where he could explore fantasies of self-sufficiency, instinctively understood that self-knowledge emerges from engagement with others. In his passionate telling, his travelogue acquires the universality of a bildungsroman." - The New Yorker.

"An insightful, creatively written report on Vietnam today and on the fate of a Vietnamese family in America." - Kirkus Reviews.

The information about Catfish and Mandala shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Andrew X. Pham Author Biography

Photo: Srisuda Wansawat

About The Author
Andrew X Pham (pronounced fam) was born in Saigon, Vietnam in 1967. His father, Thong Van Pham, worked for the US during the Vietnam War and was imprisoned in a reeducation camp after the war by the Communists. The family arrived in California in 1977 as 'boat people'. 

As a child, Andrew thought he would become a painter but eventually followed his father (a software engineer) into the same field, graduating from UCLA with a degree in aerospace engineering in 1990.  After briefly working as an aircraft engineer, he realized he was unfit for cubicle work so quit his job to pursue an M.B.A. and an M.S. in Engineering.  Eventually, he abandoned his studies, and, ...

... Full Biography
Link to Andrew X. Pham's Website

Name Pronunciation
Andrew X. Pham: last name is pronounced 'fam'

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