cover image Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam

Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam

Thien Pham. First Second, $25.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-80971-1; $17.99 paper ISBN 978-1-2508-0972-8

Pham employs food as a vehicle to chronicle his and his family’s treacherous experience as Vietnamese refugees in this arresting graphic novel memoir, a debut. In the book’s first chapter, a bespectacled adult Pham recalls “my very first memory... from when I was five.” A spread rendered in inky line and muted color washes depicts an overcrowded boat carrying Vietnamese evacuees suffering from thirst, hunger, and fear. When their vessel is beset by pirates, Pham’s parents instruct him to close his eyes; pages of void-like darkness interspersed by red-toned scenes of the pirates’ violent acts follow as Pham’s parents assure him that they’re “right here. It will be okay.” Upon surviving the siege, Pham is given a rice ball, the last of the family’s food: “To this day,” Pham writes, “I can still taste that rice ball.” Subsequent chapters recount the family’s travels from Songkhla refugee camp to San Jose, Calif. Pham reflects the push-pull conflict of assimilation and cultural loss as explored through food in digitally illustrated panels portraying visual feasts and expressive emotion, making for a vivid and insightful telling that offers joy and hope amid the terror. Ages 14–up. (June)