Andrew Lam


Andrew Lam is a former Vietnamese refugee and now lives in San Francisco. He is the author of the short story collection Birds of Paradise Lost, which received the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award and was a finalist for the California Book Award, as well as the essay collection Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora, which received the PEN Open Book Award, and East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres. In 2004, Lam was the subject of a PBS documentary that aired nationwide. He has held teaching fellowships at San Jose State University and Stanford University. The recipient of support from Creative Work Fund to write a series of stories exploring the lives of those who’ve crossed borders in the 21st century and the relationship between Vietnam and California, Lam writes a regular column for Shanghai Daily and contributes regularly to the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Boom California, Al Jazeera, and the Huffington Post

When I reached America I was almost twelve years old and in a few years I had become someone else. I stopped praying to the dead, stopped believing in old fairy tales, stopped, for that matter, speaking Vietnamese altogether.

The short version is that I stopped wanting to remember—not that I could forget—that lost homeland, no longing to mourn who we used to be, what we used to own, and how we used to behave in the old world. I couldn’t bear that enormity of loss. None of it had helped me in the new world, so it seemed to me, and in fact my memories were like a heavy stone around my neck—they threatened to drown me each night. Often nostalgia renders many an exile helpless: failing to overcome his grief, his losses, he becomes an enemy of history….


Some of my favorite people on earth are in this book,
Dear writers and grand spirits.

Annie Dillard