Andrew X. Pham
Fellow: Awarded 2009
Field of Study: General Nonfiction
Competition: US & Canada
Andrew X. Pham is an independent writer, journalist, and engineer. He received his B.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1990, and worked as an aircraft engineer before becoming a freelance technical writer and journalist. From 1994 to 2000, he was a book reviewer, food writer, and restaurant critic for Metro Newspapers in Silicon Valley, California.
His first book, Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam (1999), is both an immigrant memoir as well as an adventure travelogue, hailed as one of the most original and lyric works in the genres. It won the Kiriyama Prize, the Whiting Writers’ Award, Quality Paperback Book Prize, and the Oregon Literature Prize. It was also named a Guardian Prize Shortlist finalist, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Barnes & Noble Discovery Book, and a Border’s Original Voices Selection. Translated into French, German, and Korean, it is used as a text in high school and university courses ranging from English 101 to literature, Asian-American studies, Vietnamese history, and creative nonfiction.
In his second book, The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars (2008), Mr. Pham takes on his father’s voice to write the elder Pham’s memoir. Thong Van Pham lived through the most tumultuous period of Vietnam’s history, from 1935 to 1975, witnessing and surviving World War II, the Indochina War, and the Vietnam War. Narrated with his father’s perspective and sentiments, the memoir portrayed the trials and tribulations of a Vietnamese everyman, revealing the country and historical events through a completely new lens. Reviewers praised the book for its innovative approach and creative adaptation of advanced literary techniques. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, it was also selected as one of the Los Angeles Times Favorite Books of 2008, the Washington Post Top Ten Books of the Year, the Oregonian Top Ten National Books of the Year, and Bookmarks Magazine Best Books of 2008.
Last Night I Dreamed of Peace (2008) is Andrew Pham’s translation of Dr. Thuy Tram’s diary that was written during the Vietnam War. A bestseller in Vietnam, the diary is considered a national treasure by historians and academics. The author was a young, idealistic battlefield surgeon for the North Vietnamese Army, working in primitive and dangerous conditions at the frontline. Mr. Pham had the assistance of his father, whose knowledge of the older Viet language and terminologies was instrumental in creating a faithful translation. This English version is being translated into multiple languages.
During his Guggenheim Fellowship term, Andrew Pham will be writing Twilight Territory, the third book in his trilogy on Vietnam.