East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres

The unexpected consequences of the Vietnamese diaspora

From cuisine and martial arts to sex and self-esteem, East Eats West shines new light on the bridges and crossroads where two hemispheres meld into one worldwide “immigrant nation.” In this new nation, with its amalgamation of divergent ideas, tastes, and styles, today’s bold fusion becomes tomorrow’s classic. But while the space between East and West continues to shrink in this age of globalization, some cultural gaps remain.

In this collection of twenty-one personal essays, Andrew Lam, the award-winning author of Perfume Dreams, continues to explore the Vietnamese diaspora, this time concentrating not only on how the East and West have changed but how they are changing each other. Lively and engaging, East Eats West searches for meaning in nebulous territory charted by very few. Part memoir, part meditation, and part cultural anthropology, East Eats West is about thriving in the West with one foot still in the East.


“Once an awed young refugee from Vietnam, Andrew Lam can still view America with wonder. Our country is becoming Asian—culture, religion, food, media—all influenced by diasporas from countries that were enemies and allies. Alarmed and delighted, I voraciously read East Eats West.”

—Maxine Hong Kingston, author of I Love a Broad Margin to My Life


“Andrew Lam is an expert time-traveler, collapsing childhood and adulthood; years of war and peace; and the evolution of language in his own life, time, and mind. To read Andrew's work is a joy and a profound journey.”

—Farai Chideya, reporter and author of Kiss the Sky


“One of the best American essayists of his generation.”

—Wayne Karlin, author of Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam


“Don't be fooled by the seductive beauty of [Lam's] prose--underneath its iridescent surface, it comes with the wicked kick of Sriracha chili sauce.”

—Sandip Roy, host of New America Now Radio and commentator on NPR's Morning Edition


“Andrew Lam devours the American experience with fresh eyes, keen insight, and a lyrical voice. He is a natural storyteller on a journey of discovery across continents and cultures, and we're lucky to be along for the ride.”

—Scott James, New York Times columnist and author of SoMa and The Sower


“In these lovely, wise, probing essays, Andrew Lam not only illuminates the crucial twenty-first-century issues of immigration and cultural identity but the greater, enduring issues of what it means to be human. East Eats Westis a compelling book, and an important one.”

—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain


“Future historians will have the pleasure of chronicling how through his deft essays Andrew Lam bridged, fused, and reconciled Asia, Vietnam, Vietnamese America, contemporary California, American culture as a whole, and the English language into one interactive symbiosis, his and all of ours, for now and for decades to come.”

—Kevin Starr, University Professor and professor of history, University of Southern California


“Lam describes our new Pacific world in prose that is subtle, mesmerizing, and unforgettable.”

—Jeff Chang, author of Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation and Who We Be: The Colorization of America


“Lam's story is heartbreaking and inspiring as it tells of the travails, the tragedies, and the successes of the Vietnamese and other Asians who came to America to escape oppression and better their lives and the lives of their children and in the process, blessed and changed America.”

—Larry Engelmann, author of Tears before the Rain: An Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam


“By turns playful, thoughtful, and critically astute, this is his version of the voice the New America speaks, and it is a superbly fresh lyric. East Eats West is a sublime dissertation on what happens when the ‘marginal’ finally arrives at the ‘center.’”

—Ruben Martinez, Fletcher Jones Chair in Literature and Writing at Loyola Marymount University and author of Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail


“Andrew Lam's work weaves journalism and storytelling beautifully. Together the essays craft a new Vietnamese American identity that is invested in neither retrieving ‘authentic’ culture or claiming America. Lam's vision is shaped by the past, not beholden to it, and trusting of the future.”

—Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, associate professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University


“No one writes about being Vietnamese and American with a finer sadness or a richer sense of irony or greater humor than Andrew Lam.”

—Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America


“With a sharp eye on American idiosyncrasies, with a sad understanding of the inevitable distance between immigrant parents and their children, with a nuanced hopefulness for culinary utopias, and with an unstoppable curiosity to fathom the layered multilingual memories of an immigrant, East Eats West initiates the reader to the fact that ‘in the land of plenty there's plenty of irony’ too.”

—Werner Sollors, professor of African and African American studies, Harvard University, author of Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture

About the Author

Andrew LamAndrew Lam is an editor and cofounder of New America Media, an association of over two thousand ethnic media outlets in America. His essays have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country, and his short stories are anthologized widely. Followed by a film crew back to his homeland, Vietnam, he was featured in the documentary My Journey Home, which aired nationwide on PBS in 2004. His book Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora won a PEN American Beyond Margins award in 2006. Lam currently lives in San Francisco.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Lam