Essay Example on Stealing Buddha's Dinner: Bich Nguyen's Memoir of Refugee Life in Grand Rapids

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1227 Words
Date:  2023-08-08

“Stealing Buddha’s Dinner” memoir was written by Bich Nguyen, narrating of her childhood experiences as a refugee in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is an immigrant from Vietnam and had fled the Saigon war in North Vietnam, with other family members, leaving their mother behind. While in Grand Rapids, her father marries again, Rosa, who gives Vinh, Bich's brother. Later on, they are joined by their family members from Vietnam, which change the family structure constantly. Bich grows up a shy girl, mostly in thick dark glasses. The book is generally about Bich finding and understanding herself, something which the adults in her life could not do. This paper explores more of Bich's experience as a refugee and the factors contributing to her success as an immigrant.

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Bich struggles with her alienation from her childhood. The separation of Nguyen from her personal childhood experience as a result of her immigration into the United States of America results in the infliction of her psychological torture into her mind. Cultural and initial background plays an essential role in the development of the individual. This separation, therefore, attributed to the occurrence of undesirable factors that negatively impacted Nguyen’s life. When Bich realizes the fact that she will always remain as both American and Vietnamese dues to her dual upbringing, Bich spiritedly brawls with the existing conflict regarding her ambition to be part of American culture and also her prevailing overreaching central resistance to assimilation. The desire to be American after joining America proves futile to her previous culture; this also results in a lot of effort to maintain her culture, which is also seen to be of less value in the United States territory (Xu). The cultural difference results in to increase in Bich's desire for assimilation; quitting her previous culture posed a threat to her moral justification. As a result, the fear of resorting to the new cultures superseded her desires to protect her previous bringing culture. Also, the availability of the new culture in the United States further undermines her desire to protect her past culture. As a result, the conflicts in her ambitions increase. Nguyen's simulation to become a complete American fails to take effect despite her efforts to do the same. She ends up remaining as herself self hence coming up with a mechanism to make life bearable for her stay in the USA.

Cultural identity is one of the factors she struggles with, as it serves to become a success factor later. She is seen struggling to adopt American food while struggling to maintain her initial Vietnamese cuisine as well. Nguyen's desire for American food exceeds her desires for the Vietnamese home-prepared food. This was also evident in her statement, "I wanted something to be smashed and broken – the paradigm unspoken that ran between us like the chain-link fence in the backyard" (Nguyen, 68). Through the epic on the "stealing Buddha's diner," Nguyen portrays the desires for the American foods. In addition to her food desire, the desire to be part of the American depicted as real people also took a great piece of her, which was also evident with her words, "real people did not eat cha gio. Real people ate hamburgers and casseroles and brownies. And I wanted to be a real person, or at least make others believe that I was one" (Nguyen, 56). However, her desire exceeded her previous passion for their Vietnamese food, which was often home prepared. In this Nguyen focus on food to illustrate her information clearly shows the aspect of the struggle to attain food as a refugee, she is also seen as not having enough choice of basic necessity to satisfy herself. Nguyen's upbringing by the stepmother also illustrates the desire for food. This example connects to this point because it is the channel through which stealing Buddha's dinner idea is brought out, hence depicting the impact of struggle and desire to be part and parcel of American through the adoption of their food culture. The relevance of the point also comes in when Nguyen's attempts to adopt the American food culture fails despite several efforts implying extreme miles immigrants are willing to undergo to be acceptable.

Religious differences and her acceptance of the situation also shapes her life as an immigrant. Bich, being a Buddhist struggles with Christianity, which also influences her success. The USA is a nation full of Christianity beliefs, poses a threat to Ngunyens religious development. For instance, she is seen struggling with the conception of Christianity as it is depicted to have several cases of rejection of its believers. She ends up acknowledging the existence of Christianity as a result of the continued alienation emanating from the whites. More often, religion plays a vital role in society; it also enhances the acceptance in a given community. The difficulty of Nguyen embracing Christianity, which was also a dominant religious belief, minimizes her recognition as an American. This also affects her general sociability. As a result, she further develops an interest in her past religion. On the other hand, Bich struggles with the trauma as a result of separation from her mother. The divorce unscientifically impacts on her general wellbeing; she ends up fighting with her mother's memories. Because of the impact, it develops in her life. This point relates to the given example as it depicts the mental challenge and torture the immigrants often undergo in their journey to new counties. It also indicates the extent of the sacrifice they tend to make that usually keep on coming back to them now and then. Also, Bich struggles with the incorporation of her Buddhism development in the wake of Christianity in the United States of America. Rosa effectively plays a vital role in enhancing Bich's development, Bich is equipped with primary education and also Buddhism religion which later all impacts on her actions. Similarly, her training regarding the involvement in Buddhism also impacts her way of thinking at a later stage. This consequently plays a vital role in the shaping of individual character.


In conclusion, the life of immigrants is associated with several milestones that need more than just perseverance to overcome and realize the success later on. This life is also attributed to a series of cultural assimilation, which is often depicted to hurt personal wellbeing, just like Nguyen stated: "She only made sense here, in this hidden-away place, this undercover club with its coded foreign language" (Nguyen, 112). Life as an immigrant only made sense while at that particular state. Despite the challenges Nguyen's underwent she does not leave behind the thought of her mother whom she left behind, 'While I studied fractions and followed once again the path of the Joads along Route 66, immigrants in their own country, my real mother was out there, too, threading her way to the United States' (Nguyen, 130). Therefore, individual living as immigrates should embrace the actual culture from the respective nation to blend positively with the natives of that particular nation to minimize the negativities that might be attributed to the act of immigration.

Works cited

Nguyen, Bich Minh. Stealing Buddha's Dinner: a Memoir. New York, N.Y. : Penguin Books, 2008: Stealing Buddha's Dinner (Viking 2007)

Xu, Wenying. "A Psychological Approach to Bich Minh Nguyen's Stealing Buddha's Dinner." Asian American Literature: Discourse and Pedagogies 2 (2011): 8-21. Web. 20 May 2015.

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Essay Example on Stealing Buddha's Dinner: Bich Nguyen's Memoir of Refugee Life in Grand Rapids. (2023, Aug 08). Retrieved from

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