Stealing Buddha's Dinner
A coming-of-age memoir by a Vietnamese American recounts her struggles for an American identity in the pre-politically correct climate of the Midwest and her passion for American food in the face of her family's Buddhist lifestyle. Reprint.
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1 - Pringles
What an amazing way to start this book! The family arrived in Michigan with only five dollars! You can also see that this memoir is going to have a strong narrator because it is easy for the reader to visualize what is happening and become interested in the story right away.
According to AccuWeather, the average temperature in Grand Rapids, Michegan in July is in the 70s-80s. On average, Vietnam is in the upper 80s in July. Why would the family be cold?
Given the author's description of Baldwin Street, where can you infer they are living?
This novel is classified as a memoir. A memoir is a written account of an important event in the life of a real person. The narrator of this novel is a real person that really experienced what she writes about. However, it is important to note that memoirs are based on the memories of someone and memories can be subjective. To learn more about this literary genre, watch the video clip below. (This annotation contains a video)
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently....Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
This is a picture of South Vietnamese people trying to escape on the American helicopters in April of 1975. According to the narrator, why was their father desperate to make their escape from South Vietnam? (This annotation contains an image)
Why is italic print used in the highlighted text?
The picture below is of the food lines at Fort Chaffee. When you read about their experiences, think about having to stand in a line like this for food. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Bich feel about living in Grand Rapids?
Below is a video on point of view and cultural perspective. After watching the video, reread the highlighted passage. How does Bich's point of view change? (This annotation contains a video)
2 - Forbidden Fruit
Below is an example of an altar like the one that Bich speaks about. Why are the altars important to the family? (This annotation contains an image)
What motivates Bich to leave the fruit as an offering for Buddha?
Why are birthdays unimportant to Vietnamese people? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.
How does living on Florence Street with Rosa and Crissy change Bich's reality?
How is Rosa affecting the girls' time with Noi?
3 - Dairy Cone
Have you noticed that all of the chapter titles are named after types of food? Food is very symbolic of a person's culture. As you read, pay attention to the chapter titles and what they reveal about the upcoming chapter.
Watch the video on symbolism below. Reread the highlighted passage. What does ice cream symbolize to Bich? (This annotation contains a video)
How do the girls learn to avoid their parents' rules? Why is this an important fact for the author to share?
The author repeatedly mentions Rosa pinching pennies and restricting the girls' desire for sweets. What is Rosa's reason for restricting what is spent?
4 - Fast Food Asian
Watch the video on imagery. Reread the highlighted passage. How does Bich use imagery to share the special feelings going to the Vietnamese Market brought up? (This annotation contains a video)
Why is Than's large belly a sign of his prosperity?
How does the name-calling and American pronunciations of her name affect Bich's assimilation into her adopted country?
Why does Bich really dislike the food Noi and Rosa make and the clothes Rosa buys?
What motivates Bich to hide things from her white friends and her family?
Why does the Sound of Music song phrase "girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes" Cause bitterness and astonished poignancy for Bich?
Why would Anh and Bich break in and vandalize Jennifer's room?
Chapters 1-5 Quiz
6 - School Lunch
Why does Bich react so differently from Anh when the kids make fun of her or her family? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.
What does Bich envy about Holly?
Why does Bich never receive the prized lion?
7 - American Meat
How is Bich creating a version of herself that is acceptable to her white friends? How is this affecting her self image?
Why would Rosa be sad or resigned when teaching Bich how to use a knife?
8 - Green Sticky Rice Cakes
Watch the first eight seconds of the opening credits. You will see the opening of Laverne and Shirley where they say the phrase. Reread the highlighted passage. Visualize Bich and Anh practicing this on their way to the bus stop. (This annotation contains a video)
Why is it important that Bich puts this statement separate from the rest of the paragraph?
How does Rosa use hyperbole as a tool for descipline?
Below is a video on hyperbole. Reread Rosa's description of communism and think about her use of hyperbole. (This annotation contains a video)
Bich is speaking on the symbolism of the banh chung. Why is this important to the Tet holiday?
What are possible reasons that Bich and Loan lose touch with each other?
Bich previously mentioned that her father liked going to the Vietnamese parties because it reminded him of his youth in Vietnam. What motivates her father to throw a dance hall party?
Why is Bich feeling isolated? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.
What life lesson does Bich learn in this chapter?
9 - Down with Grapes
Grapes of Wrath is a novel written by John Steinbeck about the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Why is it important that Bich is comparing this story to Cesar Chavez and the teacher strike? (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Bich carry guilt around in her heart over claiming Rosa wasn't her real mother?
10 - Bread and Honey
Why does Rosa take the girls to college with her?
Why does Bich join the Brownie Troop?
Who does Bich blame for Crissy's shoplifting habit?
Chapters 6-10 Quiz
11 - Salt Pork
How is this statement an oxymoron? How does this statement support the theme of belonging and isolation?
Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up in a similar situation with a financially struggling family. How does this fact, along with Laura's obvious love of food reflect Bich's own life? (This annotation contains an image)
How does the Ingalls' move West cement Bich's connection to their family?
Why does Bich gravitate towards strong female characters in the books that she reads?
12 - Holiday Tamales
How is Rosa similar to the literary heroines Bich aspires to be?
How is Bich explaining the overwhelming nature of blended families?
13 - Stealing Buddha's Dinner
What is the cause of Bich's insomnia?
What is Bich realizing about Noi's Buddhism?
What motivates Bich to think of stealing everyone else's food until she has all she wants?
How does Bich differentiate between Christian believers and Buddhists?
14 - Ponderosa
What is the cause of most of the tension between Rosa and her father?
Why does Bich feel guilty when her father is the one who stole the money?
Other than money, what is a cause for the trouble in Rosa and Bich's father's marriage?
How did the day's events foreshadow Rosa's announcement of divorce? Foreshadowing is a literary technique where the author provide clues about something that will take place later in the story. To learn more about foreshadowing, watch the video clip below. (This annotation contains a video)
15 - Mooncakes
What is Bich's reaction to her birth mother returning to her life?
What does this meeting with her birth mother mean to Bich? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.
16 - Cha Gio
What is another important life lesson Bich realizes as she reflects on her family's journey and her personal journey?