Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen was at first hard to reckon with. As I sat reading the book, I was overcome by guilt thinking, “Dang, I was that white girl.” I prayed at every meal, wore my Sunday best, my mother kept our house spotless, and, of course, we had a living room that was reserved for adults and special occasions. As I read reflecting, I looked for something to tie my life to Bich’s. Of course there is my love of processed foods, but I couldn’t compare to her strict options because I always got whatever food I asked for. It wasn’t until the birth of Vinh until I really started to draw parallels between my life and that of Bich’s.
I was eight years old when my sister was born, and I remember being so excited to have a little American Girl Doll of my own. She was small, cute, and had these little bumps on her head that I liked to peel off. Sure, it was gross, but I wanted my sister to be perfect. Perfect because the last nine months had been kind of terrible. It wasn’t actually so bad living it, but in retrospect, I probably have a lot of mommy/daddy issues because of it.
My mom and dad took our family out to dinner at Coney Island in the late fall or early winter of 2000. I was really not a big fan of the establishment, (I preferred the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club) but who was I to judge, I mean free food and milkshakes, c’mon! So as we sat there talking about God knows what, actually we were probably talking about God, my mother broke the news. They were going to have a baby. This news was shocking; first of all, I was sure they were done. I mean they had to be; they had filled up all of the bedrooms. So, I was not pleased because this meant that someone (me) would have to share a room.
What became of the pregnancy was even worse. My mom ended up being really sick for the majority of it, and I was on my own. Little second grade Katherine, the shortest kid in the class, started to figure things out. Like Bich, one of the most important things in the world was the content of your lunch. I started packing my own lunch, which meant a hot pocket, every single day. Obviously, this did not make me a hot commodity in the second grade where it was a dog-eat-dog world…a place where it was either Lunchables or bust. So I adapted, I started beating the boys in arm wrestles and inventing games during recess. I probably had some type of Napolean complex, trying to rule the world from below four feet.
|This is a picture of my siblings during happier times. Me? bottom left. Yea, I was a ham.|
What I learned is that sure, it is really great to fit in, but normal people like the weird ones. They like the crazies that go out of their comfort zone, and put on a show. I know that Bich had a more difficult time doing this because she felt really isolated, but after reading the first nine chapters, I can tell she grew into a wild adult. After all, its not the content of your lunch that really matters, it’s more of the content of your character.