The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam

The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in VietnamIn This Heartfelt Memoir, Dana Sachs Takes The Reader On A Sensual And Textured Voyage To A Country Most Americans Think About Only In Terms Of War A Finalist For The Independent Publisher Book Award, This Deftly Written Narrative Reveals How Sachs Settled In With Slick, Warmhearted Tung And His Quietly Tenacious Wife Huong In Hanoi And Made A Place For Herself In Enemy Territory With Vivid Descriptions Of The Community The Noodle Stalls And Roaring Motorcycles, The Vestiges Of French Colonialism, And The Encroachment Of Glittering High Rises Sachs Explores The Tenuous Balance Between The Traditions Of Old Vietnam And A Country In The Throes Of Modernization Sachs S Honest Depiction Of Her Difficulties Renders Her Triumphs And Love For The Country And Its People All The Poignant And Compelling This Edition Includes A New Afterword By The Author Pretty good, but boy oh boy did she mess up in choosing a Vietnamese lover I m glad she lived with a family and didn t hang out with expats all the time Makes for a much better memoir that way One of the best books I ve read about living and working in another country While reading, I got a real sense of what Vietnam and the Vietnamese are like, and why the author fell in love with the country and culture I recommend it highly. Making the decision to move and live abroad in a country where you don t speak the language or understand the culture, is something many people may not fathom In The House on Dream Street, Sachs journeys to Hanoi to discover its people and its culture Sachs finds herself completely enraptured by the people, the environment, and a witness to the country s evolution.Though the memoir began as Sachs love affair with Vietnam, her story quickly became less about Vietnam and about her own personal life As I read this book, I found myself searching for details and insight into the country, the generational shift, and the cultural richness I was left with unanswered questions and a feeling that once Sachs decided to return to San Francisco, get married, her fondness for the people and the culture was just a passing phase of her life. This was an interesting read I have always been fascinated by Vietnam, its people, and its culture most likely because I grew up in the era of the Vietnam war and that s all I ever heard about it There was a pervasive fear in the neighborhood I grew up in as we watched neighbors get drafted and head off to war We never knew who was next So, when I spotted this book in the local used book store, I simply could not resist An American woman living in Vietnam, 20 years post war, alone Wow It takes a lot of strength, guts, and nerve for a young, American woman to move to Vietnam She did it alone, without knowing the language and just expected to live there and eventually find a way to fit in What an experience I like the way she wrote it warm, humble, sincere, and matter of fact Her descriptions of the cities, sounds, sites, lakes, people, food, shopping and lifestyle put the reader right there with her Most of her time is spent in Hanoi, a bustling, whirlwind of activity Her trip was timely she went after war recovery, but before Vietnam becomes westernized This would be a good book club selection. Dream Street covers a shorter time period than I had expected Sachs s time in Vietnam amounted to a little over a year, and she always knew even when she daydreamed about staying that it was temporary But she makes smart choices in her memoir, choosing, for example, to skim over the English teaching and article writing she did while in Vietnam in favour of details about the neighbourhood around her and others lives There s a shift in her thinking, too, from thinking of Vietnam and Vietnamese people largely in terms of the Vietnam War to thinking about it them in terms of the present day That conversation with the veteran who lost a leg I wonder how different it would have been if she d had it later It read to me as though he wanted to be talked to as an individual rather than an object of guilt We drove past a man carrying a bride on the back of his motorbike The woman sat sidesaddle, her white dress hiked up to keep the ruffles from dragging through the mud Her arm was around his waist, and her face was impassive as she stared ahead, up the road Looking at them through the car window, I remembered a photograph I d seen once of an image like this one, published in some magazine somewhere in the States It was supposed to reveal the quintessence of modern Vietnam the fascination with Western style, the contrast between the novelty of technology and the timelessness of the rice fields, a bride s hope for the future competing against the hopelessness of keeping her wedding gown clean as she passed along this muddy road The image was perfect, really, but I didn t like the thought of it Looking out through the window, I could already feel the growing distance between myself and this place I had come to love It was so easy, from far away, to turn people into symbols, a bride into Vietnam, the indefinable into apparent truth. 337 Sachs had a romance in Vietnam, of the sort that s made complicated because they come from different backgrounds and have different work prospects Tellingly, perhaps though of what is a different question , Sachs can imagine the difficulty Phai would have fitting into her American lifebut, even as she wishes things could be different between them, she never seriously considers staying in Vietnam It s not her fate Still, there s a nice build up to the romance there s a will they won t they sense before anything comes to pass.I particularly enjoyed some of the small details vegetarian noodle soup as noodles without the pilot , for example I was never entirely sure what drew Sachs to Vietnam in the first place, but she found plenty to keep her there, however temporarily No one ever seemed puzzled by the fact that an American woman would abandon the United States, with all its glitzy cities, modern conveniences, and wealth, in order to come live in a country as poor and troubled as Vietnam I d often had to explain my actions to people in America, but the Vietnamese didn t even ask They could understand why I loved their country, because, despite their grudges and gripes about things as fundamental and disparate as the weather, the government, and the economy, they loved it, too. 334 As someone who married in to Vietnamese culture, I am always reading about and looking for interesting books about the place, particularly from outsider perspectives This book was interesting for the sake of day to day living in Ha Noi, but lacked a sense of connection with the culture itself Perhaps this is inevitable, because the author is not part of a Vietnamese family, but her interactions with Vietnamese people often seem shallow In particular, her brief relationship with Phai a man of low social class is pretty gross.After finishing, I had learned some interesting things particularly a few Vietnamese idioms I didn t know , but found myself wishing that the author had lived in Vietnam longer and that she d focused on the place than herself. I seem to best enjoy travel writing while traveling myself it makes me less jealous of the author Sachs lucked out with a title I found this book personally interesting because I have also spent time in Southeast Asia, so it was interesting to compare my experiences and reactions with those of Sachs She gives brief snippets of background information, which I found helpful, but otherwise the scope is narrowed to her personal experience, which I think works She s not attempting to write about Vietnam she s writing about her Vietnam I think it s a good case of the personal becoming universal. The first time I read this book yes, I ve read it than once , I had just returned to America after living in Vietnam for four years I d heard of Sachs through the couple who edited Destination Vietnam magazine, and I was intrigued by her book I had been living in Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam, while Sachs s book was about her life as an American woman in Hanoi in the 1990s What appealed to me so much about her story is that despite her frustrations, her moments of anger, her mixed emotions there was such a rich underlying tenderness toward Vietnam A tenderness I share and that I often find hard to explain to people who have not been there Sachs captured the magical spell that the country casts over some people A spell that for some reason cannot be broken Living with a Vietnamese family, she gets to know the country on a domestic level, learning its rhythms She also begins a poignant love affair with a local man a relationship that will take her even further in her understanding of Vietnam and give readers a chance to see it in a way I ve never encountered before or since reading this book. I was interested to read a book about an American woman living in Vietnam, a country that had fascinated her since her first visit She lived with a Vietnamese family and immersed herself in their lives and that of their friends She also falls in love with Phai, one of their friends For me the most interesting bits were her exploring the city, the shrine, etc., and the least interesting her love affair I think one gets a good idea of what it was like to live there, hence the four stars.

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  • Paperback
  • 357 pages
  • The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam
  • Dana Sachs
  • English
  • 05 December 2017
  • 9781580051002

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