Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Winner of the Whiting Writers' Award
A Seattle Post-Intelligencer Best Book of the Year
Catfish and Mandala is the story of an American odyssey — a solo bicycle voyage around the Pacific Rim to Vietnam — made by a young Vietnamese-American man in pursuit of both his adopted homeland and his forsaken fatherland.
Andrew X. Pham was born in Vietnam and raised in California. His father had been a POW of the Vietcong; his family came to America as "boat people." Following the suicide of his sister, Pham quit his job, sold all of his possessions, and embarked on a year-long bicycle journey that took him through the Mexican desert, around a thousand-mile loop from Narita to Kyoto in Japan; and, after five months and 2,357 miles, to Saigon, where he finds "nothing familiar in the bombed-out darkness." In Vietnam, he's taken for Japanese or Korean by his countrymen, except, of course, by his relatives, who doubt that as a Vietnamese he has the stamina to complete his journey ("Only Westerners can do it"); and in the United States he's considered anything but American. A vibrant, picaresque memoir written with narrative flair and an eye-opening sense of adventure, Catfish and Mandala is an unforgettable search for cultural identity.
"A modern Plutarch might pair Pham's story with that of Chris McCandless, the uncompromising young man whose spiritual quest led him to a forlorn death in Alaska. Pham, instead of seeking out remote places where he could explore fantasies of self-sufficiency, instictively understood that self-knowledge emerges from engagement with others. In his passionate telling, his travelogue acquires the universality of a bildungsroman." The New Yorker
"An engaging and vigorously told story . . . a fresh and original look at how proud Vietnamese on the war's losing side reconciled having their identity abruptly hyphenated to Vietnamese-American." Gavin Scott, Chicago Tribune
"Thoreau, Theroux, Kerouac, Steinbeck, Mark Twain and William Least Heat-Moon — the roster of those who have turned to their travels for inspiration includes some of America's most noted scribes. Now add Andrew X. Pham to the list . . . Catfish and Mandala records a remarkable odyssey across landscape and into memory." The Seattle Times
The award-winning Catfish and Mandala is the poignant, lyrical tale of an American odyssey — a solo bicycle voyage around the Pacific Rim to Vietnam made by a young Vietnamese-American man in pursuit of both his adopted homeland and his forsaken fatherland.
About the Author
Andrew X. Pham was born in Vietnam in 1967 and moved to California with his family after the war. Catfish and Mandala
was the winner of the 1999 Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. Mr. Pham lives in Portland, Oregon