Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam

First Second. Jun. 2023. 240p. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781250809711. pap.$17.99. ISBN 9781250809728.
Gr 9 Up–In this graphic memoir, Pham shares with readers memories of his family’s immigration to the U.S. and their efforts to achieve “the American Dream.” Each chapter is framed around a specific food that is central to his memory of critical points in his life. Starting with his first memory at five years old, Pham relates his family’s experience of fleeing Vietnam by boat and being given rice and fish by a passing ship. Other chapters focus on the family finally making it to the U.S. (celebratory meal of steak and potatoes), Pham attending an English-speaking school for the first time (cafeteria-served Salisbury steak), and reconnecting with his Vietnamese heritage through a friend (shared meal of Cơm tấm đặc biệt). Throughout, Pham’s mother shines as the hero of the story, even if his younger self was not fully aware at the time of everything she did to protect his childhood. This can be seen in small moments, such as her treating Pham and his brother to expensive potato chips and in more extreme situations like the powerful scene in which she shields his vision and calmly talks him through a horrendous and brutal pirate attack. Pham’s detailed artwork and expert use of the graphic novel format will doubtlessly transport readers into each compelling memory.
VERDICT A delicious series of memories full of hope and human connections despite the hardships of immigrating to a new home.

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