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

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2006


    This is an incredible book, if not one of my favorites. It was given to me as a gift from a dear friend last year for Christmas, and then later assigned in my English class perhaps I was destined to read and comment the novel. Whatever the case, it is an incredible memoir, not only an insight into a man's search for his identity and soul, but into a journey so few of my own generation really know or can comprehend outside the history books. Simply, the work chronicles Phan's bicycle journey up and down the Vietnamese landscape. Highlighting his personal triumphs and family's demise, the memoir also parallels the face of contemporary Vietnam, with the strength of her culture but the division of her country. It is laced with Phan's struggle to understand himself just as it ponders the decisions Vietnam must make to survive, but at the end of it all, it is simply a story about strength and acknowledgement, about forgiveness and awareness, things all too familiar and prophetically universal. All too often my generation views Vietnam merely as our parents' 'homeland,' as our ethnicities that we can hardly trace the history of, as something we might check off on a box and join the organization on campus. But recognizing our ethnicity, our face, is more than just the obvious, as Phan finds out in the two-wheeled journey, that it is the very essence of who we are and how we make the certain decisions and life choices that others don't. The book is poetic in every sense of the word, graceful and brutally honest in its descriptions, and makes no apologies. It won't answer or heal anyone's wounds, but for me anyway, who could never before fathom the struggle my parents endured, it was a great insight into who we are. I'd recommend this anyday.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    Interesting insights into Vietnam

    I purchased this book in preparation for a trip to Vietnam. I ended up reading part of it during the trip. It was a very moving book. The experiences of his family exposed the Vietnam war in ways that I had never experienced. Reading explained some of the things that we saw, although the Vietnam we saw felt very different than the one he experienced. I would be interested in reading his view of Vietnam now almost 20 years after his original bike ride.

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  • Posted May 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Difficult Journey

    This is the memoir of a man whose family left Vietnam on a leaky boat, spent time in an Indonesian detention camp, and arrived virtually penniless in America. The author describes his family as "dysfunctional" and apologizes for writing this book, which does indeed hang out the family's dirty linen. The book is as much about the family as it is about a voyage of self-discovery that the author, an engineering graduate, takes to Vietnam and elsewhere to acquaint himself with his roots. This journey is often times brutal and unpleasant reading. In Vietnam, he is regarded as a pariah and treated as such. He finds himself a foreigner-an American, actually-in his native country. I recommend this book as an insight into a nasty part of history and as a commentary as to what immigrants go through when arriving in the US.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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