Reviews

Prizes & Honors:

Whiting Writer’s Award
Guggenheim Fellow
Kiriyama Winner

Catfish and Mandala won the following honors:
Kiriyama Non-Fiction Prize Winner
Quality Paperback Book Award for Non-Fiction
Oregon Literary Prize
Guardian Book Prize Finalist
New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Seattle Post Intelligencer Best Book of the Year
Library Journal Best Book of the Year 1999
San Francisco Chronicle Best Seller List
Barnes & Noble Discovery Writer
Border’s Original Voice

The Eaves of Heaven won the following honors:
National Book Critics Circle Finalist
Honor Book of the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association
One of the Ten Best Books of the Year, Washington Post Book World
One of the Ten Best Books of the Year, Portland Oregonian
One of the Los Angeles Times’ Favorite Books of the Year
One of the Best Books of the Year, Bookmarks Magazine

Review Excerpts for Catfish and Mandala:

“Every once and a while a new voice appear on the literary scene that is at once lyrical, smart, unafraid, and provocative. Andrew X. Pham is that kind of new voice.”
—Lisa See, Pacific Rim Voices

Pham’s book is “a trip from the heart, a memoir to remember.”
—Patrick Lloyd Hatcher, a prize judge for Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize

“As our interpreter to the nuances and often tragicomic aberrations of contemporary Vietnamese culture and survival tactics, Pham is wonderful…”
–Jeff Biggers, The Bloomsburry Review Mar/April 2000

“What distinguishes Pham’s book is his hard-won insider’s perspective.”
–Gavin Scott (former Saigon bureau chief for Times magazine), Chicago Tribune

“A brilliantly written memoir…” —Kirkus Reviews

“In writing a sensitive, revealing book about cultural identity, Pham also succeeds in creating an exciting adventure story.” —Publisher Weekly, 8/23/99

“a remarkable odyssey across landscape and into memory”
—Barbara Lloyd McMichael, Seattle Times

“a white-hot journey into the mysteries of cultural identity…. The result of his journey is a layered yet fast-moving exploration of terrain both psychological and geographical, conveyed with the Jamesian hyper-awareness of a gifted writer…. Pham opens readers to the full sadness of the human condition on both sides of the world, marveling at spiritual resilience amid irreconcilable facts…. Its stories are fired by Pham’s corrosive honesty and his unblinking acknowledgment of human failings.”
—Roland Kelts, The Philadelphia News, The Inquirer, 28 Nov 1999

Andrew X. Pham is “a gifted writer [who] manages to produce a travel book that, while dealing with a place or culture he knows well, still has all the sharpness and strangeness of a dispatch from the dark side of the moon…. At its finest moments, his narrative becomes a mediation on the state of loneliness that is everyone’s lot in the modern world, whether at home or abroad.”
–Adam Goodheart, The New York Times (5 Dec 1999)

“Catfish and Mandala, Pham’s first book, is brilliantly descriptive and written with perception, and wedged with adventure from the first pages to the last.”
—Greg Johnston, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11 Nov 1999

Catfish and Mandala “is one of the unlikeliest seriocomic travel adventures on record”
—Outside Magazine

“singular and absolutely mesmerizing” –Ed Ifkovic, MultiCultural Review, March 2000

Review Excerpts for The Eaves of Heaven:

“A work of radiance. In some ways, it resembles that supreme recollection of … Vladimir Nabokov…. Vividly told.”
—Richard Eder, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Los Angeles Times

“Few books have combined the historical scope and the literary skill to give the foreign reader a sense of events from a Vietnamese perspective…. Now we can add Andrew Pham’s Eaves of Heaven to this list of indispensable books.”
—Matt Steinglass, New York Times Book Review

“Searing … vivid—and harrowing … Here is war and life through the eyes of a Vietnamese everyman.”
—David Takami, Seattle Times

“There are some books that writers shouldn’t read. Not because they are so bad they make you despair why such garbage ever gets published, but because they are so good they make you despair that you could ever write so well yourself. Pham … is the best kind of memorist. He understands a memoir is not really about oneself but about a period, a time, a people.” —Renee Denfield, The Oregonian

“Contemporary writers have plenty to say about suffering, too, and at least one of them, Andrew X. Pham, has mastered the subject.”
—Robert Cremins, Houston Chronicle

“Eaves of Heaven is, however, something completely original …. In his quiet and compelling voice, in the absence of sentimentality, sensationalism, and chronology, Pham gives his father’s story a remarkable depth and power, originality and authenticity.”
—Abby Pollak, Waterbridge Review

“Of all the books I’ve read this year, this [Eaves of Heaven] is the one you just HAVE to read. I can’t believe I’m gushing so much about a non-fiction book, which is normally not my forte. But this book is absolutely wonderful.”
–Library Things Early Reviewer, Breaking the Fourth Wall

“In a narrative set between the years of 1940 and 1976, Pham (Catfish and Mandala) recounts the story of his once wealthy father, Thong Van Pham, who lived through the French occupation of Indochina, the Japanese invasion during WWII, and the Vietnam War. Alternating between his father’s distant past and more recent events, the narrative take readers on a haunting trip through time and space. This technique lends a soothing, dreamlike quality to a story of upheaval, war, famine and the brutality his father underwent following a childhood of privilege (And that strange year, the last of the good years, all things were granted. Heaven laid the seal of prosperity upon our land. We were blessed with the most bountiful harvest in memory). For those not familiar with Vietnamese history, Pham does an admirable job of recounting the complex cast of characters and the political machinations of the various groups vying for power over the years. In the end, he also gracefully delivers a heartfelt family history.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“All critics agreed that The Eaves of Heaven, written in short, eloquent vignettes that move back and forth in time, is one of the best memoirs of this period in Vietnam’s history written from the Vietnamese point of view. Indeed, it offers a much-needed perspective in the United States, which often thinks of “Vietnam” as a painful episode in its own history rather than another nation’s. But some reviewers, impressed by Pham’s ability to write in his father’s voice without sentimentality, went even further. They called The Eaves of Heaven a classic among memoirs and compared it with classic texts that address the timeless themes of violence and war. The Eaves of Heaven is a book that will greatly appeal to a wide variety of readers.”
—Bookmarks Magazine

“This gripping narrative confronts American readers with the tragic consequences of their own country’s complicity… dispelling illusions about both America’s myopic strategies and the Vietcong’s bloody tactics. By turns touching and searing, this slice of history—like Pham’s earlier Catfish and Mandala—deserves a wide readership.”
—Booklist (starred review)

“War-torn as it was, a lost world lives again in Thong’s recollections of the passions of his life: food, friends, family, romance …. Personal tragedy and triumph, related with amazing perspective against an epic backdrop.”
—Kirkus (starred review)

“Pham deftly paints a compelling portrait of life during three wars in Vietnam (World War II, the Indochina War, and the Vietnam War), of his father’s inner conflict, and of the difficult choices faced by a people living in fear. This beautifully written book is essential for public and academic libraries.”
—Library Journal (starred review)

Helpful Links (for students writing term papers :)

Catfish and Mandala Companion Site

Ann Bib (literary non-fiction)

Breaking the Fourth Wall

Diacritic Interview