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Published: 20-09-2019

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A Theme Analysis in Catfish and Mandala: A Two Wheeled Voyage through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew Pham

Catfish and Mandala: A Two Wheeled Voyage By means of the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam was a very nicely written, insightful narrative by Vietnamese-American author Andrew “An” X. Pham. His stories consist of 1st hand accounts of life in Vietnam as a young boy, leaving Vietnam in the course of the fall of Saigon in 1975 with his loved ones as refugees, adjusting to American life and culture, and his voyage to return to his homeland and revisit household and the places of his childhood. You learn about the Pham family and Ans other extended loved ones, or clan as they say in the book, some have created it to America and some stayed in Vietnam. His mother, father, and brothers and sisters and his relationships with them are key elements to the story, their early struggles as refugees leaving Vietnam are outstanding, some explaining the broken family members dynamics. As I was reading this book at occasions I felt that Ans memories were racing all over the spot, producing connections about his present circumstances to his previous all through the entire book. His journey to return to Vietnam as a “Viet-Kieu” teaches An a lot about himself, the men and women that he comes from, and the land that he comes from. Some of the major themes I took away right after reading this book had been the sense of An trying to find out his identity, the lasting effects of the Vietnam war on society (those in Vietnam and those in America), and An trying to realize his general partnership with his family members. Overall, I really feel that Catfish and Mandala gives a wonderful firsthand account, from a extremely special perspective of returning to a war torn nation attempting to discover ones roots.

Identity I found to be a prevalent theme throughout reading this book. Proper from early on An speaks about not living up to his fathers expectations “ I can’t be his Vietnamese American. I see their groveling humility, concessions given ahead of quarts are asked. I hate their slitty-measuring eyes. The fast gestures of humor, bobbing of heads, forever congenial, eager to please” (Pham 25) It is not that An is embarrasses of his background but he sees how Asian guys are treated in America and does not want to conform into a stereotype. He was a straight A student that had a degree in engineering, but you would be fooled to feel that we has ever interested in doing that by reading the book. An has dealt with racism because he was young in the United States getting Vietnamese. I feel he is shocked by how differently he is treated for becoming Viet-Kieu. Right away he gets very first hand experiences of how the Viet-Kiue are treated by these who stayed in the homeland of Vietnam soon after the War. Several people assume he is Korean or Japanese, at times he even plays along to avoid conflict, but typically when discover out he is Viet-Kiue they are not impressed or even upset. But not always, he is frequently asked for guidance on how to get rich like Americans by poor Vietnamese that have heard of the American dream, An writes “ I am perceived as a gold mine of totally free suggestions. I am used to entrepreneurs of every single creed ribbing me: What the heck, Brother, they all say, spill the beans. Let us in on the secret so we can roll in the dough” (Pham 154) He feels bad for these poor Vietnamese individuals when he sees how small they have. He begins to really feel a sense of guilt, when he sees beggars that remind him of a childhood friend he never saw once again. Even explaining to these men and women the notion that he is on a vacation biking even though there country makes him really feel guilt. He desires to relate to the folks of Vietnam but at instances he can't because he sees right through peoples intentions. I feel as the deeper you get into Ans journey throughout the book far more and a lot more memories come back to him as he searching for his correct identity.

The lasting effects of the war was prevalent throughout the book also. Ans loved ones story of adjusting to life in southern United States and eventually California, all of the scarifies his loved ones made to guarantee their youngsters would have a shot at a normal American life, and his households struggles that had stayed in Vietnam brought me the most insight to life soon after the war. A quote from his father about survival stuck out to me, “ The easiest lesson had constantly eluded him. A survivor does not have the luxury of counting his blessings”. (Pham 322) This stuck out to me simply because as I study about the stories of these who had made it to America and those that didn’t I discovered that absolutely everyone had to make sacrifices. People risked their lives to sneak their households out of the nation and sold almost everything they had to spend for it. Several ended up leaving their homes, possessions, loved ones behind while fleeing communist rule. These who had been associated with the United States and Vietnamese Nationalist Army had a tough time if they had been caught. Ans father had served time in a labor camp that had lasting effects, lasting effects that will spill more than into his children. Numerous of the individuals An meets along the way are desperate to make income to find a way out of Vietnam and are curious about American life. Upon a handful of encounters An meets girls that the thinks are genuinely interested in him but they all turn out to be prostitutes. He states , “ Who are these strangers? These Vietnamese, these wanting-wanting-wanting people” (Pham 102). You do get the feeling that several folks want some thing from An when they recognize he is Viet-Kiue. This points out to me that the re-unification of Vietnam by the communists wasn’t an effortless transition for the men and women and not absolutely everyone benefitted from the newly liberated Vietnam. The people that lived in the south that had really benefitted from operating for and with the United States have been left higher and dry following we pulled out. Without jobs the individuals resorted to finding other ways to make ends meet and at a last resort become a beggar. Several of the individuals An encounter are very poor and do not make hardly any money no matter what job they hold.

The third theme that stuck out the me most throughout reading this novel is the struggles An had with his household and the relationships they had. Ans Father the difficult loving, son of an abusive aristocrat, the head of the property never ever was able to show his children enjoy in a normal manner. He was abusive and held his youngsters to high standards. Ans mother, the backbone and provider of the loved ones. Some may argue that she was the head of the household due to the fact of her sternness and boldness. He has two younger brothers who are gay and afraid to tell their parents. Kay is his youngest sister and sounds to be the most Americanized out of the household. Then there is Chi/Mihn, An describers “She became the family’s massive shame, as if we’d somehow failed-failed her as we’d failed ourselves” (Pham 215). Chi/Mihn was born transsexual and was never ever an accepted member if the loved ones. An feels fantastic resentment in not reaching out to do some thing prior to Chi/Mihn took their life. I believe what is symbolic about this quote and Chi/Mihns spot in the loved ones is that this deals with some thing that is looked at as an “American”, the thought that her “Vietnamese” parents would never understand or accept this. It is even stated in the book that relatives said the suicide occurred simply because Chi/Mihn became “ too American”. This was sad to understand about a individual who was stranger inside their own family, who were strangers to a new country. Ans relationships with his brothers and Chi when he is young reflects the parents hard adore an many points in the story. The are a dysfunctional family but you can not take away the truth that they do care about every other in the end of it all.

In conclusion, following reading Catfish and Mandala I stand by my opinion that it offers a fantastic firsthand account of the lasting effects of the Vietnam war on a country (and it is people) from a special perspective. Throughout the book many instances I located myself considering how exciting it was to get an American-Vietnamese take on issues. The interactions with men and women in American, Mexico, and Vietnam all also differed in methods for An being Viet-Kieu. Ans story is an adventure but also a conquest for personal reflection and understanding of his roots. He is hit with all kinds of feelings even though traveling across Vietnam and meeting the folks that reside there. Near the finish I felt that he had established a sense of belonging regardless of getting so far from America. He had found folks that he could relate to, he met these he felt sorry for, and he took away numerous lessons of what life in modern day day is like Vietnam. With traveling to Vietnam I believe he develops a greater understanding of his parents and they purpose they raised his household the way they did. He understands how fortunate they are to have had the opportunity to leave and give for their children in the United States.
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