A moving young adult graphic memoir about a Vietnamese immigrant boy's search for belonging in America, perfect for fans of American Born Chinese and The Best We Could Do!
Thien's first memory isn't a sight or a sound. It's the sweetness of watermelon and the saltiness of fish. It's the taste of the foods he ate while adrift at sea as his family fled Vietnam.
After the Pham family arrives at a refugee camp in Thailand, they struggle to survive. Things don't get much easier once they resettle in California. And through each chapter of their lives, food takes on a new meaning. Strawberries come to signify struggle as Thien's mom and dad look for work. Potato chips are an indulgence that bring Thien so much joy that they become a necessity.
Behind every cut of steak and inside every croissant lies a story. And for Thien Pham, that story is about a search-- for belonging, for happiness, for the American dream.
Pham employs food as a vehicle to chronicle his and his family's treacherous experience as Vietnamese refugees in this arresting graphic novel memoir, a debut. In the book's first chapter, a bespectacled adult Pham recalls "my very first memory... from when I was five." A spread rendered in inky line and muted color washes depicts an overcrowded boat carrying Vietnamese evacuees suffering from thirst, hunger, and fear. When their vessel is beset by pirates, Pham's parents instruct him to close his eyes; pages of void-like darkness interspersed by red-toned scenes of the pirates' violent acts follow as Pham's parents assure him that they're "right here. It will be okay." Upon surviving the siege, Pham is given a rice ball, the last of the family's food: "To this day," Pham writes, "I can still taste that rice ball." Subsequent chapters recount the family's travels from Songkhla refugee camp to San Jose, Calif. Pham reflects the push-pull conflict of assimilation and cultural loss as explored through food in digitally illustrated panels portraying visual feasts and expressive emotion, making for a vivid and insightful telling that offers joy and hope amid the terror. Ages 14–up.