The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam (Adventura Books)

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9781580051002: The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam (Adventura Books)
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Book by Sachs, Dana

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Part memoir and part travelogue, The House on Dream Street offers a compelling glimpse into Vietnam more than 20 years after the war. Author Dana Sachs foregoes the history lesson and instead takes us into the day-to-day lives of working-class people attempting to succeed in a fledgling capitalist economy. Captivated by the once-forbidden country during a visit in 1989, Sachs returned two years later, took a room with a young family, and set out to immerse herself in the culture.

One of the most charming aspects of the book is that Sachs lacks the bravado you'd expect from a solo traveler. Her slow grasp of the language causes no end of frustration, and her Western looks--"bigger, paler, and richer"--make her an object of unwanted attention. Other facets of crowded Hanoi prove equally challenging: maneuvering a bicycle through dangerously narrow streets, fending off the frequent advances of married Vietnamese men, and coping with the complete lack of privacy as well as the elusive Vietnamese concept of destiny. Despite the often-primitive conditions, the watchful eyes of the secret police, and the intolerable, mildewy weather, Sachs manages to portray her newfound home as an explosion of sensory experience, where "the rich, woody scent of freshly steamed rice" fills the air and "commuters whizzed past... their bright clothes trailing pink, orange, purple, and green across the blue-black asphalt of the road." And then there are the people: Tung, her friendly but on-the-make landlord who loves heavy metal; Huong, his critical but loyal wife who harbors untold hidden strengths; Tra, desperate to return to the States and get her doctorate, even at the expense of her marriage; and Linh, also yearning to escape her husband's tight reins. In fact, most of the women with whom Sachs bonds are torn between their family obligations and a dawning realization of their own rights.

Even as her friends struggle to balance personal goals with marital happiness, Sachs finds herself drawn to Phai, a quiet, inexperienced motorcycle mechanic. Their love affair, illegal and unspoken, flames steadily and then flickers out, as the author finds herself unable to overcome their differences and the prospect of marrying into Phai's impoverished family. In the end, she realizes her love for Phai is only a personification of her romance with the country itself--but it's as a chronicle of that romance that The House on Dream Street truly succeeds. In telling the story of her own discovery and growth, Sachs provides a distinctively personal view of a rapidly evolving country as well as the families who are weathering the transition. --Lisa Costantino

From the Inside Flap:

It wasn't until the early 90's that the war-torn country etched into the historical memory of every American finally opened its doors to the world. Journalist Dana Sachs had been haunted by her limited understanding of Vietnam culled from bits and pieces of the evening news and quick summaries in high school history. She decided she had to get to know Vietnam and its people from the inside out.

She'd anticipated meeting with stares and hostility as an American in Vietnam. She hadn't anticipated becoming entranced, so entranced that she moved to Hanoi.

The House on Dream Street is Sach's heartfelt account of how she settled in with a Vietnamese family, learned the language, and made a place for herself in "enemy" territory. And then, when she least expected it, she fell in love.

With vivid descriptions of the tastes, sounds, smells, and images of Vietnam, Sachs reveals the beauty of a country long off-limits to Americans. Part love story, part social commentary, Sach's memoir explores the tenuous balance between old and new Vietnam. But above all, The House on Dream Street tells the story of a woman learning to know her own heart.

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9781565122918: The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam

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ISBN 10:  1565122917 ISBN 13:  9781565122918
Publisher: Algonquin Books, 2000
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