Critic Viet Nguyen has argued that Asian North American literature, written in English, is most likely
read by non- Asian North Americans because these stories show American culture as non-racist
and welcoming to the Vietnamese. These stories then become a way to validate America’s entry
into the Vietnam/American war and the triumph of capitalism over communism. Additionally, if the
Asian-American author is successful in the United States, this behaviour further affirms the
superiority of American values, instead of reminding readers how the U.S. abandoned South
Vietnam in a time of crisis. Do you see Andrew X. Pham, as he portrays himself in Catfish and
Mandala, supporting America as non-racist and welcoming to Pham and his family? Do you see
Catfish and Mandala fitting Nguyen’s model or does it provide another view of America?
- In the short stories of Le Minh Khue, “Distant Stars,” “Blue Sky” and ”A Small Tragedy,” we see the
narrator change from someone who believes fervently in the battle for her country’s selfdetermination
to one who questions cynically whether the sacrifices were worth the outcome.
Using examples from the stories, discuss this shift.
- It has been claimed that diasporic fiction shows a typical trajectory of dissatisfaction with the
country of settlement, nostalgia or longing for the country of origin, a return trip where the author or
character confronts the knowledge that the country of origin is not the country of his or her
memories and then an acceptance and renewed vision of the settlement country. Do you see these
stages operating in Catfish and Mandala?
- In the short story, “Useful Phrases for Immigrants”, the character of Guili seems caught between
the memories of her life in China, the traditional Chinese culture of her in-laws with whom she lives
in California and the American culture Guili often inhabits. Like Andrew Pham, she struggles to find
her identity and her place, but it could be argued that her options are reduced due to gender roles.
Compare and contrast Guili and Pham’s routes to dealing with their issues.
- Pham struggles in Catfish and Mandala to make sense of his various identities. Duneer has read
Pham’s bicycle wheel as a mandala with his various identities forming the spokes of the wheel. If a
mandala is a representation of wholeness, do you see Pham as having successfully integrated his
identities in Catfish and Mandala?