Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 356
Stealing Buddha's Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen is a memoir in which the author recounts her childhood growing up as a Vietnamese refugee in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The novel has many important themes, including the experience of being a young refugee, the formation of cross-cultural identity and belonging, and the importance of food to a sense of self and culture. There are many powerful quotes in the book which speak to these themes. I have selected a couple to discuss below.
Almost all these kids were way ahead of me and Anh. Their parents were anxious for them to fit into Grand Rapids and found the three quickest avenues: food, money, and names. Food meant American burgers and fries. Names meant a whole new self. Overnight, Thanh's children, Truoc and Doan became Tiffany and David.
In this quotation, Bich writes about her observations of how the children of immigrants form their identities in America. She notices that food, money, and names are three important ways that these kids carve out an American identity for themselves. These ideas are important throughout the book, particularly the idea about American food being essential to American identity. This quotation also speaks to the ways in which Bich feels like an outsider, and like the other kids are "way ahead of" her.
Reading to me was fundamental, as fundamental as food. And nothing could be more satisfying than reading a good book while eating a good meal of mi soup, french fries, and a thin cut of steak. I plowed through books as fast as possible in order to read them again.
Throughout the memoir, Bich talks about the ways in which reading serves as a tool of belonging for her. Through reading, Bich finds comfort when she doesn't feel like she belongs and finds ways to understand herself and her identity. This quotation also compares reading to food, and the foods she lists display the mixture of her American and Vietnamese identities.
There are many more wonderful quotations in this book, and in particular there are many selections in which the author discusses food and its importance in great detail.
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