Sunday, September 8, 2019

Best Books to Read When You Travel to Vietnam

Best Books to Read When You Travel to Vietnam

I was lucky enough to travel to Vietnam with 17 high school students and two teaching partners recently.  We traveled to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) from June 21st through the 23rd, 2019 as part of a larger trip to SE Asia. We also visited Cambodia and Thailand.  It was Amazing with a capital A.  

I absolutely loved Vietnam. It is beautiful and busy and bursting with energy and Saigon never sleeps. In June the weather is extremely hot with a humidity level of boiling.  My favorite place was probably our day on the Mekong river. It was so lovely.  I also really loved the Rickshaw ride through the city. It was crazy and probably dangerous but I loved it!  We ate authentic Pho and of course tried the Egg Coffee and both were so good. The food is so good!

When I travel I make it a practice to read a book or two about the people and places I'm visiting. Books help me learn so much about the history and culture of a particular place.

I've read two books on this list to prepare myself for Vietnam.
Catfish and Mandala
The Best We Could Do
Both books were so informative.
I own copies of the last two books on the list and plan to read them soon.  I hope this list is a good resource for you.


Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam
by Andrew X. Pham  


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-  Goodreads


I absolutely loved this book and I learned so much about Vietnam. I highly recommend it.

The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars by Andrew X Pham


From the award-winning author of Catfish and Mandala comes a son's searing memoir of his Vietnamese father's experiences over the course of three wars. - Goodreads

I haven't read this one but I think I will since I loved Pham's first book Catfish and Mandala. We learned a little about his dad's experience during the Vietnam war and after in his first book.  You should read this if you are visiting Vietnam and want to learn more about the war from the Vietnamese point of view.  I'm definitely adding it to my To Be Read book pile.


The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir Paperback by Thi Bui

An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam from debut author Thi Bui.

This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.

At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.

In what Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.
 - Goodreads

I always read books about places I'm visiting as I like to learn about the history and culture of the people and places I'm going to meet and visit during my travels. This graphic novel is awesome. It is a biography of Thi Bui's family experience in Vietnam during the war and how they escaped South Vietnam on a boat. She also talks about their experience coming to America after the war and how they adjusted to life in the U.S. amid discrimination and dealing with the aftermath of the trauma they experienced. Thi Bui artwork is phenomenal and beautiful. I highly recommend this book.

Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram



At the age of twenty-four, Dang Thuy Tram volunteered to serve as a doctor in a National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) battlefield hospital in the Quang Ngai Province. Two years later she was killed by American forces not far from where she worked. Written between 1968 and 1970, her diary speaks poignantly of her devotion to family and friends, the horrors of war, her yearning for her high school sweetheart, and her struggle to prove her loyalty to her country. At times raw, at times lyrical and youthfully sentimental, her voice transcends cultures to speak of her dignity and compassion and of her challenges in the face of the war’s ceaseless fury.

The American officer who discovered the diary soon after Dr. Tram’s death was under standing orders to destroy all documents without military value. As he was about to toss it into the flames, his Vietnamese translator said to him, “Don’t burn this one. . . . It has fire in it already.” Against regulations, the officer preserved the diary and kept it for thirty-five years. In the spring of 2005, a copy made its way to Dr. Tram’s elderly mother in Hanoi. The diary was soon published in Vietnam, causing a national sensation. Never before had there been such a vivid and personal account of the long ordeal that had consumed the nation’s previous generations.

Translated by Andrew X. Pham and with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize winner Frances FitzGerald, Last Night I Dreamed of Peace is an extraordinary document that narrates one woman’s personal and political struggles. Above all, it is a story of hope in the most dire of circumstances—told from the perspective of our historic enemy but universal in its power to celebrate and mourn the fragility of human life.
 - Goodreads

I read this book in 2012 and it offers the reader from the Western world a view of the war from the other side of the conflict.  While some parts of the book are maybe lost in translation, much of it will give you a new perspective.  Throughout the memoir, there is death and destruction. Dr. Tram faces death daily as people she loves are shot and captured and her patients die of incurable wounds. Her depression is evident as she misses her family and her high school sweetheart. Life happens during war and Thuy shows how she survives every day when bombs are dropping around her. Powerful. 


The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

In the final days of a falling Saigon, The Lotus Eaters unfolds the story of three remarkable photographers brought together under the impossible umbrella of war: Helen Adams, a once-naïve ingénue whose ambition conflicts with her desire over the course of the fighting; Linh, the mysterious Vietnamese man who loves her, but is torn between conflicting loyalties to his homeland and his heart; and Sam Darrow, a man addicted to the narcotic of violence, to his intoxicating affair with Helen and to the ever-increasing danger of his job. All three become transformed by the conflict they have risked everything to record.

In this much-heralded debut, Tatjana Soli creates a searing portrait of three souls trapped by their impossible passions, contrasting the wrenching horror of combat and the treachery of obsession with the redemptive power of love. - Goodreads

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen


It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today. -Goodreads

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.




I'll leave you with two photos from my trip.


Downtown Saigon.
We were walking to find a delicious cup of Egg Coffee.
Of course, I walked down the middle of the street to get this shot and was dodging motorcycles but this side street wasn't too busy.

This was our last thing to do before heading to the airport.







A view of the Mekong River and our boat. We stopped at a shop to try coconut candy and Cobra snake infused rice wine.
I loved this day on the river.
I bought a lot of souvenirs here.















I hope you get to Vietnam someday even if it's just through a good book.

 Follow me on Instagram at Booksnob24, you can view more of my travel photos there.







Friday, April 5, 2019

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City


This book is really good and it explains so much about Evictions and why they are happening at an alarming rate to our cities poor population. My brother and his girlfriend are being evicted in one month (they are evicting the whole building full of low-income residents who suffer from addiction and mental and physical disabilities to do repairs) He has lived there for over 10 years and has built a family with the other long term residents and they help and care for each other. His girlfriend has attempted suicide twice since learning of their eviction and potential homelessness and feels she needs to put down her cats since they won't be able to live on the street with her. It's heartbreaking. It's very difficult to find affordable housing in the Twin Cities area. Being evicted creates a lot of stress. Even I'm feeling the effects of the upcoming eviction and I'm not being evicted. It's so hard. This is an issue we need to create solutions for. As a teacher, I see some of my students struggling with eviction and homelessness and this changes their perceptions of worth. Read this book and educate yourself about this issue. It's so important to lower the rate of evictions in our cities, that it needs to happen NOW.

“Every condition exists,” Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote, “simply because someone profits by its existence. This economic exploitation is crystallized in the slum.” Exploitation. Now, there’s a word that has been scrubbed out of the poverty debate.”

“it is hard to argue that housing is not a fundamental human need. Decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody in this country. The reason is simple: without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.”







Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Guess what? I Published a Book!

              Guess what?  I Published a Book!

My book is a poetry anthology that I co-edited with my friend Annette Gagliardi. Its called Upon Waking. 58 Voices Speaking Out from the Shadow of Abuse.  I have five of my poems in the book and I tell my story of abuse and healing through my poetry. 

Our book launch is on Saturday, April 6th at 2pm at Moon Palace books in Minneapolis. It's all very exciting and full of awesome.  If you live in the Twin Cities area you should come.

So I have been missing from my blog for a while now and I've been meaning to start blogging again. In fact, I made an attempt in December 2018 but then I fell backward on the ice, while walking a dog, and broke both my wrists so that idea fell by the wayside. Yes, envision me with two casts on each wrist and then imagine trying to wash your hair. It was not very fun or pretty. I'm still healing but my casts are off and I can type and write again.

What have I been doing since I quit blogging in 2017?

I actually quit blogging due to grief.  My dog died unexpectedly in May of 2017 (he was my baby) and I just couldn't write.  Grief does that to me, it stops me from writing every time. When I finally started writing again I focused on my poetry and fiction writing and kind of kicked my blog to the curb. No, I actually did kick my blog to the curb for real.  It's hard to do it all and to do it well. Hard to be a parent, high school teacher, reader, writer, book blogger, healthy, mindful, and so something had to give. 

I started working on my book with Annette in October 2017 and 18 months later here we are at the promotion and event stage.  It has been an amazing experience and I have learned so much. Its also been an emotional experience and a healing one too. 

Our book is made up of poetry by survivors of abuse, sexual and physical, and it gives survivors a chance to tell their stories through poetry. It is a very powerful book.

Here is the link to add it to your Goodreads TBR list:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44402383-upon-waking?ac=1&from_search=true

You can buy a copy from the League of Minnesota Poets:
https://www.mnpoets.org/2019/03/17/upon-waking/

You can also find copies at Independent Bookstores in St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN

Moon Palace
https://www.moonpalacebooks.com/?searchtype=keyword&qs=Upon+Waking&qs_file=&q=h.tviewer&using_sb=status&qsb=keyword 

You can also call or visit these locations to get a copy.

Subtext Books
BoneShaker Books
Eat my Words! Bookstore




Saturday, December 29, 2018

Remarkable Creatures



Remarkable CreaturesRemarkable Creatures
by Tracy Chevalier




Tracy Chevalier is one of my favorite authors. Remarkable Creatures starts off slow and told in alternating narrators it quickly picks up as the characters search to find new fossil specimens. Based on the real lives of two female fossil hunters in the 1800's, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot and the men come around looking to profit off of their hard work. I had never heard of these two women until I read this book. These two women are as remarkable as the dinosaurs they find along the beach. Definitely worth the read.


View all my reviews



My dog, Titus died in May 2017 and I quit writing my blog, as grief consumed me.  I feel like I am healing and I have been watching other peoples dogs for my side hustle.  The dog viewed with Remarkable Creatures book is named Fitz.

So I'm thinking maybe I will revive Booksnob and let my blog evolve into more than a book blog.


Other books I've read and loved by Tracy Chevalier-




I hope 2019 is better than 2018.
Happy New Year!
-Laura

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

The View From the Cheap Seats. Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is the sweetheart of librarians, book bloggers and book lovers everywhere.  In The View from the Cheap Seats, he takes his readers on a journey through his love letters to literature.  Readers will indulge on short non-fiction pieces about books and reading and libraries as well as Gaiman's thoughts about his favorite authors, book genres, movies, comics and so much more.  Get your notepad ready to write down book titles and look up authors because Gaiman will be adding to your "To Be Read" pile.  

My favorite piece called "Make Good Art" is located within the pages of this book, and I'm so thrilled to have the written text.  Squee! I show this commencement speech every year to my senior elective students around graduation day.  I will attach the youtube version for you.  It's just so good, it has its own section in the book.

Finally, The View From the Cheap Seats is a luscious 500 pages of pure enjoyment. It's like dark chocolate or fine wine or a really, really awesome book. Wait.  It is a really, really awesome book. I read it slowly to savor each piece and I read it with a highlighter because I'm a book nerd.

Now go and Make Good Art and Read Good Books.  Love ya.





Sunday, April 30, 2017

Poem in my Post: Last Snow by Heid E. Erdrich

        Poem in my Post:  Last Snow by Heid E. Erdrich

This is the last day of April, the last day of National Poetry Month and hopefully the last of the snow here in Minnesota. I participated in Independent Bookseller Day on Saturday and drove to 12 bookstores in the Twin Cities.  We went to Birchbark Books which is owned by one of my favorite authors, Louise Erdrich, whose poetry I love.  Heid E. Erdrich is the sister of Louise and an amazing writer and poet in her own right and I think more people should know about her and read her poetry.  Plus she makes collaborative poem films! How cool is that!

Last Snow
BY HEID E. ERDRICH

Dumped wet and momentary on a dull ground
that’s been clear but clearly sleeping, for days.
Last snow melts as it falls, piles up slush, runs in first light
making a music in the streets we wish we could keep.
Last snow. That’s what we’ll think for weeks to come.
Close sun sets up a glare that smarts like a good cry.
We could head north and north and never let this season go.
Stubborn beast, the body reads the past in the change of light,
knows the blow of grief in the time of trees’ tight-fisted leaves.
Stubborn calendar of bone. Last snow. Now it must always be so.

Heid E. Erdrich, “Last Snow” from The Mother’s Tongue. Copyright © 2005 by Heid E. Erdich. Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing.

Visit Heid at her website:  http://heiderdrich.com/
You need to check out her poem films.

Have a great month in May!



Sunday, April 23, 2017

Poem in my Post: Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Poem in my Post: Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Today was a beautiful Sunday and I spent the morning with my friend, Linda, sharing our poetry.  Then I went for a long walk along Harriet Island and went to a planning meeting for my Grenada trip in July.  It was such a great day and I tried to soak up as much sun as possible since we won't see the sun in St. Paul for another 10 days (says the long term forecast).

Today I am sharing one of my favorite poems by one of the poets I admire most in the world.  I just love this poem and keep coming to it for words of wisdom and for the reminder of how important kindness truly is.  Kindness was written after Naomi and her husband were robbed on their honeymoon.  Watch the video at the end where Naomi talks in depth about what inspired the poem.  Enjoy!!




Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye








Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry Giveaway

A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre Giveaway

Kyle "Guante" Tran Myhre is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for the month of April and he is giving away one book to a Booksnob follower that lives in the United States.  This collection of spoken word poetry, essays, and song lyrics is sure to blow your socks off.  I'm so excited for you to read this amazing book.  Enter below and share and tell your friends all about it.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre is an MC, two-time National Poetry Slam champion, activist, and educator based in Minneapolis, MN. His work has appeared everywhere from the United Nations to Welcome to Night Vale, to Upworthy and beyond, and he currently makes a living traveling to colleges, conferences, and high schools, using spoken word as a jumping-off point for dialogue around identity, power, agency, and activism.  One part mixtape, one part disorientation guide, and one part career retrospective, this collection brings together spoken word poems, song lyrics, and essays from the past decade of Guante’s work.

Giveaway Rules:
Please fill out the form
Must be a resident of the U.S.
Contest ends May 18th at midnight
Good Luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway




Monday, April 17, 2017

Poem in my Post: Never offer your heart to someone who eats hearts by Alice Walker

Poem in my Post:  Never offer your heart to someone who eats hearts by Alice Walker

Hope everyone one had a great Easter.  My daughter went to the prom on Saturday and we had our Easter celebration on Sunday and so I feel like I didn't get any rest all weekend.

I have been busy writing #30poemsin30days and it is hard.  Writing is hard and doubt sets in which causes you to think you're not good enough so I'm trying to quell the negative demons on my shoulder.

The poem in my post today is by Alice Walker.  I love her and this poem is awesome.  I can really relate because I've had my heart eaten before. I love how visual this poem is and I wish I could write a poem as amazing as this.  If you've never read it before, enjoy!


Never offer your heart to someone who eats hearts by Alice Walker

Never offer your heart
to someone who eats hearts
who finds heartmeat
delicious
but not rare
who sucks the juices
drop by drop
and bloody-chinned
grins
like a God.

Never offer your heart
to a heart gravy lover.
Your stewed, overseasoned
heart consumed
he will sop up your grief
with bread
and send it shuttling
from side to side
in his mouth
like bubblegum.

If you find yourself
in love
with a person
who eats hearts
these things
you must do:

Freeze your heart
immediately.
Let him—next time
he examines your chest—
find your heart cold
flinty and unappetizing.

Refrain from kissing
lest he in revenge
dampen the spark
in your soul.

Now,
sail away to Africa
where holy women
await you
on the shore—
long having practiced the art
of replacing hearts
with God
and Song.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Announcing the April Author in the Spotlight!

Announcing the April Author in the Spotlight.

Happy National Poetry Month!  I think this is my favorite month of the whole year.  This year I am featuring a poem and a poet every Sunday.  I am also writing a poem every day of this month, so the hope is that I will write 30 poems in 30 days.

I'm also excited to announce that the author I am featuring on BookSnob this month is an awesome poet and he's well known in Minneapolis spoken word circles.  His name is Guante. I have heard his poetry for a long time and have admired him from afar and now he has compiled his poetry and essays in his first book called,  A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre.  So I am thrilled to be featuring him on Booksnob this month.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre is an MC, two-time National Poetry Slam champion, activist and educator based in Minneapolis, MN. His work has appeared everywhere from the United Nations, to Welcome to Night Vale, to Upworthy and beyond, and he currently makes a living traveling to colleges, conferences, and high schools, using spoken word as a jumping-off point for dialogue around identity, power, agency, and activism.  One part mixtape, one part disorientation guide, and one part career retrospective, this collection brings together spoken word poems, song lyrics, and essays from the past decade of Guante’s work.

This month and into May, you can expect a book review, a giveaway of Guante's book, and an author interview.

Check out Guante's website to learn more about him and his book at  www.guante.info
You can also find him on Twitter: @elguante.

Here is one of my favorite poems, written and performed by Guante.
"Ten Responses to the Phrase 'Man Up'"
Watch.