Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stealing Buddha's Dinner

As a child, author of Stealing Buddha's Dinner, Bich Minh Nguyen, contemplates the concept of reincarnation. She thinks she "could be a street urchin." That is about it for mentions of homelessness, although the Vietnam war did create homelessness as Vietnamese lost homes, and later many U.S. soldiers became homeless here at home.

Bich mentions her step-mother telling her she was "too big for her britches," and asking, "Who do you think you are?" That brought back my own childhood memory of being told I was getting too big for my britches. "Who do you think you are," my mother would ask, followed by "Anyhow?" I did not know who Anyhow was.

Most people would describe my mother as a kind, generous, loving person. Yet there was no love expressed in those words. Thinking upon it, I can not remember any words of praise to me from my mother; a constant berating and criticism. Does not bode well for self-esteem. She said she wished I would have one child 1/2 as bad as me when I grew up. I never quite figured out what all I did that made me so bad.

Sassing? Talking back? I did not say, "No, I refuse to help wash (or dry) the dishes." I did inquire, once, why I had to help when my best friend did not. I think that was one of those times, my mother said, "If she jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you..."

Bich also mentions summers ~ "It seemed like no parents were ever around. They simply let us kids loose as soon as we woke up and didn't see us until evening..." (indoors to eat supper after a day of playing with friends). That is basically how my summer vacations looked too. It seemed sort of like an us versus them life ~ siblings, their friends hanging around together and the Big People who made and enforced rules.

I enjoyed Stealing Buddha's Dinner which was a story of growing up Vietnamese in the 1970s and '80s. Bich was a loner, like me, searching for some privacy in the house so she could read. Unlike me, she was obsessed with food. I found some of the food narratives interesting. Bich describes food scenes from other books ~ I tend to skip over long, descriptive passages about meals and furnishing.

I now want to re-read some of those childhood books she mentioned, because I do not remember the stuff about food!

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