“STEALING BUDDHA’S DINNER”, any Immigrant’s Story

Immigrant story book




On Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 1:00 pm at the historic Penn Theatre in downtown Plymouth, Michigan, the Michigan Humanities Council and the Friends of the Plymouth District Library will present author Bich Minh Nguyen and her book, “Stealing Buddha’s Dinner”. 

It is part of the statewide project, The Great Michigan Read.


Bich Minh Nguyen (courtesy Bich Minh Nguyen)


It is the story of Nguyen’s journey as an immigrant toddler from Vietnam to growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  She chronicles the conflicting paths of her new cultural identity.


In their Sunday Book Review, the San Francisco Chronicle said, “This story resonates with anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider.”


How many Polish-American immigrants can relate to similar journeys in their new path in this country?  In fact, her tale mirrors all immigration groups that sought a better circumstance in the United States.


Nguyen defines her identity by not being rigid and instead creates a new fusion for herself.  Is not that part of the blue print for successful Polish-American immigrants?


In the author’s instance though, one of her bedrocks is missing in life, her mother.

Appealing in the story is the contemporary pop culture settings.  This and the detailed descriptions of family roots are now colliding with current events.



Her narrative fits well with three generations and as in any immigrant story this one can transpose well to the Busia-Ciocia-Matka-Corka-Siostra, dynamics.


The event is also sponsored by the Plymouth District Library and spokesperson Susan Stoney said, “We are so fortunate to have this program as it can make us all aware of any immigrant’s journey and their feelings as an outsider.  This is very special for Metro Detroit and the Plymouth-Canton cultural campus.”


Stealing Buddha’s Dinner (courtesy Penguin Books)


Ngyuen attended the University of Michigan and is now an associate professor in the English department at Purdue University.


An underlying historical tone of the book is how events connected with Michigan have affected people in other parts of the world, many thousands of miles away.


Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm recently proclaimed the public announcement to start The Great Michigan Read.  Meijer Grocery Stores and the National Endowment for the Humanities became title sponsors for The Great Michigan Read, which is a regional book awareness project.


With a statewide focus on a single book, the Michigan Humanities Council’s Great Michigan Read encourages Michiganians to learn more about their state, their history, and their society. The Humanities Council’s mission on this project is to support programming that will focus on three themes: immigration stories, cultural understanding, and contemporary history. 


 “It’s an honor to be chosen for a program like this,” said Nguyen. “I hope that residents all over the state enjoy the book and that it stimulates all kinds of important conversations.  I hope high school students will attend the presentation with a parent or grandparent”


In the book, Nguyen also describes a common immigrant trait.  Her obsession with foods she believed would help her to become truly American: Pringles potato chips, Kool-Aid and french fries.  But while snack foods filled her stomach she went to the library to fill her other craving, education.


“I grew up in the library,” she said.  The library was a very important place for me, just to be surrounded by books; I was able to absorb how other people lived and that is where I really learned.”


 The Michigan Humanities Council will also supply a workbook for teachers and discussion groups to go along with “Stealing Buddha’s Dinner”.  Visit www.michiganhumanities.org or call 517-372-7770.