Thesis Statement: The book explores the concept of straddling two cultures, heritage and the struggle for identity most immigrants undergo when they try to integrate themselves into U.S. society.
In the novel “Stealing Buddha’s Dinner”, author Bich Minh Nguyen explores the concept of identity and how in a desire to “fit in”, be normal and be socially accepted the author shows how she attempts to latch onto American popular culture in the form of brand name packaged food groups (Pringles, Shake & Bake etc) in her attempt to develop a more “Americanized” identity.
When examining the novel one cannot help but notice how the concepts of identity and acceptance are integral themes in the book wherein the actions of the author, in one way or another, are driven by how she is perceived and validated by others resulting in the succeeding events in the given chapters within the book.
What must also be understood is that the book itself explores concepts related to how immigrants struggle to be accepted into U.S. society all the while trying to maintain their inherent culture which creates a distinct conflict with their desire to fit in. Based on this it can be seen that the book explores the concept of straddling two cultures, heritage and the struggle for identity most immigrants undergo when they try to integrate themselves into U.S. society.
Exploring the Concept of Identity
Within the book it can be seen that the author attempted to superimpose the concept of being “American” over her Asian heritage. This is done for the sake of perception wherein the author believed that the perception of others was so important that she needed to be able to change herself in order to be better accepted.
This particular notion developed as a result of her being neglected by Rosa, being ignored by her older siblings and seeing the difference between herself and her classmates. It must be noted that the book delves into a current social trend in how Asian Americans strive to be more like “other” Americans and in fact begin to dislike their Asian heritage due to the various stereotypes and cultural differences attached to it.
This apparent “Americanization” can be seen in various social situations wherein Asian Americans continue to distance themselves from traditional Asian behaviors and customs in order to embrace a greater degree of “Americanism”.
In fact this struggle for integration is often seen in the book wherein the author as a young girl attempts to make sure that she doesn’t stand out, that she disdains her slightly short and brown appearance and that she tries her best to seemingly integrate herself into American society while in public while at the same time has to accept her Asian heritage in private while she is at home.
This apparent “straddling of the fence” is often seen in many cultural situations for not only Asian immigrants but immigrants coming from other regions as well as they try to adapt themselves to American culture and society while at the same time trying to preserve their native heritage.
Exploring the Concept of Acceptance
Towards the end of the book the author brings up the concept of acceptance wherein she learns to accept her heritage. This is done when she comes to the realization that her heritage is not her weakness but in fact is their greatest strength. It is a strength that defines who she is and something which can never truly go away.
This actually holds true for all Asian Americans and immigrants wherein despite their changed appearance and attitude their heritage is still a part of who they are. In the end the book imparts the lesson of learning to accept a person’s inherent heritage and become better because of it.
As such the book explores the concept of being able to accept who you are and coming out better because of it. It explored an on going social trend in the U.S. regarding Asian Americans and presented the idea that it isn’t necessary for them to completely change who they are since what they were before was perfectly alright.
It is the realization of this concept that is reflected in the actions of the author wherein in the end she hopes to relay to the audience the realization that who they are doesn’t need to change since what they are right now is exactly who they should be.