Author: Alison Hong Nguyen Lihalakha
Publisher: Kahana Press
Publication Date: 2 August 2022
Format: eBook - PDF
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Salted Plums is a moving coming-of-age tale for anyone who has ever felt as if they don’t belong.
Alison Hồng Nguyễn Lihalakha was just a small child when her family fled Việt Nam during the fall of Sài Gòn. From a refugee camp in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, Alison’s family settled in Panama City, Florida, where her father worked as a fisherman until his sudden death. Left to raise seven kids on her own, Alison’s mother moved the family to Kansas to be near relatives. There, Alison found herself torn between her dual identities as both an immigrant and an American kid. She felt suffocated under her mother’s strict expectations and began to reject anything Vietnamese. Quickly recognizing the disparity between her own home and the ones her mother cleaned for a living, Alison vowed to climb her way out of poverty and leave the life of an immigrant behind.
Daydreaming of grilled cheese sandwiches and faraway places, Alison initially failed to recognize the many sacrifices her parents made to build a life in America. But as she moved through her journey of self-discovery, eventually going off to college and forging her own future, Alison came to find happiness and self-acceptance in the foods and traditions she had suppressed in her youth—and in the shared kinship, from triumphs to tragedies, that bonds immigrants and refugees together.
I am not usually a big reader of memoirs, but Salted Plums interested me partly because I did not know a lot about Vietnam (apart from some food) and I had not yet read a book by a Vietnamese author for my Around the World reading challenge. In the end I found it a pleasing and interesting read, and I finished it over two nights. Alison's story was compelling, and I was fascinated to learn more about her experiences in growing up in the US as an immigrant. She tells the story with warmth and humour, but also with honesty and emotional depth. I recommend it for those who enjoy memoirs from recent history and for those who are interested to know more about the experiences of immigrants. It gets four stars from me.
I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.