I am the girl who had a mother that made banana bread and put notes into her lunch, and because of this background I felt uneasy at times throughout the first part of Bich Minh Nguyen’s, Stealing Buddha’s Dinner. However, due to my past experiences of growing up in primarily white Marshall, MI I felt as if this experience placed me within her story. As the memoir progressed I could see the complexities in the ways Bich was torn between Vietnam and East Grand Rapids. Her struggles growing up appeared colossal compared to the problems of my youth. Although my mother wouldn’t buy me Hollister brand jeans or Victoria Secret Bras like the other girls my age, I was not culture torn. I was not completely an outsider.
I was the girl with banana bread in my lunch. The kind my mother made was the kind that I made again just this last week to remind me of home and to save me from breakfast at Kalamazoo College’s Cafeteria, and because of this memory I have associated with the banana bread I can’t help but feel guilty that Bich feels split between foods. When she thinks of home will be it a complex blend of noodles, beef, and 7Up? Will there be crushed Pringles at the bottom of the spicy Vietnamese food? This story makes me think back to my childhood in a different way. When I was five years old I had a friend from Argentina. He and his mother lived in the apartments on the outside of town and the furniture was sparse in their house. At the time I don’t remember if I noted how differently he and I grew up. They spoke Spanish with each other, and I can remember listening wide-eyed as his mother would speak to him.
It is strange to me that the only thing I can remember about my friend is that when I would go over to his house his mom would let us have dulce de leche ice cream. I was dazzled by the exoticness of the name and the way the words rolled off my tongue. Come to find out years later you can buy it at the grocery store like any other kind of ice cream, but there is still this lingering memory of different, but at the same time friends. I now wonder if my friend felt the same way about me as Bich does with her neighbors. I lost touch with my friend after kindergarten when he and his mother moved. I think I may go pick up some dulce de leche ice cream sometime soon.