My Father, My American Journey

By: Quang X. Pham

This is a wonderful book written by a Vietnamese refugee who fled Viet Nam with his mother and three sisters during the fall of Saigon, leaving behind his father who was a Vietnamese Air Force pilot. Author Pham takes the reader along on his own journey to find himself, and ultimately his father, through assimilation into his new country. Quang is an honest, hard working, introspective and determined person who triumphs over prejudice, near poverty, a single parent home and the haunting absence of his father, who languishes for 13 years in Communist “Re-education Camps.” Quang is successful in sports, completes college at UCLA and becomes one of the very few US Marines who is Vietnamese.  He serves honorably as a CH-46 helicopter pilot in Gulf I, perhaps in an effort to somehow equal the valor and sacrifice of his father in his fight against North Vietnam and subsequent captivity. Quang’s father finally arrives in America to reunite with his family in 1992, 17 years after their separation.  It is this reuniting of father and son that really brings the book into focus; Quang tries, sometimes with vigor, often not, to get his father to tell the story of his life, yet in the end they only communicate superficially on the topics of substance.  Even though it is clear Quang’s father is proud of his son’s achievements as a Marine pilot, there is a gulf between them that remains unresolved. Quang goes back to Viet Nam after ending 7 years in the Marines and visits his extended family, including a son his father had with another woman in Viet Nam who is 3 years old.  This event, while helping Quang to understand more about his father’s story, leaves him even more torn about what and who his father was and is.  This haunting uncertainty remains, and his father’s death in 2000 closes forever the chance to bridge the gap between father and son. Quang’s narrative of his ascension to manhood, his becoming a Marine and his angst over his father make for exceptionally compelling reading.  The reader will be left, much as Quang was, to wonder about what might have been had his father escaped with his family. This is a book that will resonate with anyone who is interested in the Viet Nam war from a very different perspective, and it holds particular interest for sons who have been estranged from their fathers.

Publisher:   Ballantine Books, New York


ISBN:          0-89141-873-3

Length:       261 pages, 30 black and white photographs

Price:          $24.95 USA

Reviewer:   Colonel Larry Mayes, USAF (Retired)

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