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Bich’s Love for Reading
Perhaps comfort, identity and sense of belonging can only be realized or achieved and enjoyed in
one’s home country. However, this seems not to be the Bich’s expectation in her country of
refuge.Stealing Buddha’s Dinner is a memoir that describes Bich’s journey of growing up in
America as an immigrant. Bich spends her childhood time with her family in Grand Rapids,
Michigan in the 1980s after they fled Vietnam due to revolution by the communist. She was only
three years old when her father marries her step-Mexican mother who took after her together
with the stepsister.Bich loved reading a lot. She even described that reading was fundamental
they way food is fundamental to everybody.
This essay seeks to discuss the functionality of Bich’s love for books as a tool to acquire a sense
of belonging and identity despite the fact that it alienates her from the family.
Bich’s journey towards realizing her sense of identity and belonging can be traced to her love for
books: “When I stepped into the brown-tiled entryway of the Kentwood Public Library, the
sunlight flowing down on me from the high windows, I felt a sense of importance. It gratified me
to be in a place devoted to books and quiet” (SBD website).In Bich Minh Nguyen’s memoir,
Nguyen uses the character Laura Ingalls and the Little House books as a way to find a sense of
belonging as well as to alienate herself from the others, as she knows that her appearance betrays
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her in an attempt to fit in with her friends. Her desire for identity and belonging is depicted
through her envy for the characters together with their sense of belonging in the novel. Bich
always wishes to have her identity from the town she lived in despite her home country Vietnam.
In this way, Bich is showing her self –othering by desiring something that cannot happen at all.
Additionally, Bich had fears that she will forever remain an alien in the face of the Americans.
She always hates her physical appearance as it was the only thing that could other her. Through
her wishes to be like other Americans despite her appearance, the Bich’s limitation in accepting
her personality is depicted.
Moreover, Bich could consider herself an outcast in the family since her sister, unlike her, are
adopting the American culture faster. In this way, she develops a reading desire through which
he can find something to call her own as well as create herself the privacy. As one can take it to
be something usuall, whereby any child who feels alienated uses books to find their peace, Bich
highlights her wish: “I read to be alone.I read so as not to be alone.”(SBD website). Through her
wish, Bich uses books as a tool to alienate herself from the family as well as to replace the family
with the characters in the novel whom she felt that she can make good friends out of them or
even make a connection with them.
In his article, Barnes illustrates that a conflict may arise in a situation where an individual tries to
define herself independent of the group in a diasporic community. Barnes illustration relates to
the situation that Bich is in as she could not conform to the American culture nor their home
country’s culture which is Vietnam and she, therefore, uses books instead as an evidence of selfalienation and self-othering.
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Bich also uses the books she read to find the role models. She could imitate Laura’s behavior as
if she was the one. “After I read the Little House books, I began to pretend that bacon was salt
pork and that I was Laura herself. She was short and small like me, and she savored every last
touch of the salt on her tongue.” (SBD website). She could seek the similarities between herself
and Laura, at the same time capitalizing them without considering the appearance that differs
from that belongs to Laura.
In conclusion, Bich’s desire to have a sense of belonging seems to be achieved through her love
for books. Reading transforms people to be what they desire in life. Reading helps individual to
nature one’s imagination, improve academically, and even getting the role models. As evidenced
by the memoir, readings offer a sense of acceptance and belonging to the rejected and alienated
immigrants, like Bich, since they can make themselves busy whenever they feel
lonely.Additionally, reading helps immigrant to literally find friends from the book characters
they way Bich’ admires Laura’s character that she even wanted to be like her forever despite the
appearance that differentiates them.

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