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 April 10, 2000

Vietnamese Author to Discuss Return to Homeland

In 1977, 10-year-old Andrew Pham left his native Vietnam in a leaking boat headed for the United States. More than 20 years later, Pham returned to his homeland on a bicycle and on a mission to discover himself and his family's past.

Pham recounts his journey in the best-selling memoir Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam.

Pham will discuss his book and his journey during a talk at UConn on Wednesday, April 12. The discussion, sponsored by the Asian American Cultural Center, will take place at Jorgensen Gallery at 7:30 p.m.

In his book, which recently won the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, Pham recounts the often painful process of trying to fit in in America. It was his older sister's suicide that prompted Pham to quit his job as an engineer for United Airlines and return to Vietnam in search of the source of her discontent and the root of his family's angst.

During his trip, which took him to Mexico and Japan as well, Pham discovered that Vietnamese don't see him as one of their own, just as Americans see him as anything but American. As Pham navigates Vietnam, he takes his readers inside the country's elusive culture and offers insights into the experience of Vietnamese immigrants.

"I am always more Vietnamese than I think and less American than I hope," Pham says.

Angela Rola, director of the Asian American Cultural Center sees Pham's visit as an opportunity for members of the University community, some of them immigrants, to hear how one man has come to terms with his divided life.

"Pham's story is a familiar theme for both Asian immigrants and American-born Asians," says Rola. "He has a story for parents, children, adventurers, athletes and veterans."

Pham's talk is free and open to the public.

Allison Thompson