Perfume Dreams

Andrew Lam

Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora

Perfume Dreams

In this powerful collection of essays, Lam, a syndicated columnist and National Public Radio commentator, explores his identity as a Viet Kieu (a Vietnamese national living abroad) residing in the United States. On April 28, 1975, 11-year-old Lam and his family fled Saigon aboard a crowded C130 cargo plane just two days before the fall of Saigon to Communist forces (a day Lam would come to know as an “American rebirth”). His father, a respected South Vietnamese general, followed soon after, reuniting with the family in California, where they would begin at the bottom rung as they struggled to fulfill the American Dream.

Looking deep within himself and his fellow Viet Kieu, Lam seeks to “marry two otherwise dissimilar and often conflicting narratives.” He cites cultural critic Edward Said as he shows that to transcend one’s national limits one must not reject attachments to the past but work through them. Lam, who grows to realize that home is “portable if one is in commune with one’s soul,” embraces the journey of self-discovery and concludes that one’s identity is not fixed but “open-ended.” What results is a cohesive presentation with broad appeal, allowing non-Viet Kieu to understand Lam’s experiences. –Library Journal

Find Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora