restricted access Immigration and Amnesia: Andrew X. Pham's Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

This essay argues that Andrew X. Pham's account of his trip from America to Vietnam, his country of birth, has the paradoxical effect of erasing the past. Building on Ali Behdad's argument that America's self-image as a nation hospitable toward immigrants requires the negation of history, I argue that Pham's celebration of American multiculturalism rests on the negation of information about his past that he travels to recover. Pham's narrative reveals the blind spots demanded by a nation that celebrates immigration as evidence of the highest American values while avoiding full knowledge of immigrant lives.