📖: Loan Le’s A Pho Love Story (2021)
🍸: little saigon
Why this book?
Two Vietnamese American teens. Two competing phở restaurants in Little Saigon, California. And lots of chả giò, bánh xèo, and cà phê sữa dá. The novel’s premise alone made my heart warm and stomach hungry.
Aside from all the delicious foods, I loved the inclusion of Vietnamese language in the dialogue. Sometimes a term of endearment was mixed in with English, and other times a full sentence! Through the characters, I could hear the voices of my own family members talk to me through the pages. Not all of the dialogue was fully translated, though. And as an #ownvoices reader, this made me feel like the book was written for me.
This is the young adult novel I wish I had growing up. Like Linh, I also wanted to pursue a creative path. Linh wants to become a painter, but in a family of Vietnamese immigrants, art is seen only as a hobby, not a living. Our parents survived and sacrificed for us so we can be free to choose our futures. So why does this feel so fraught? Can we honor both our parents and passions at the same time? The tenderness, empathy, and care that Loan Le lends to the exploration of this theme struck an emotional chord with me – especially when Linh’s father lovingly confronts her about this over a bowl of canh sườn bí.
Overall, there is so much more to this story than just romance. It is about love for our families, our culture, our community, and ourselves. It is about our inheritance as descendants of Vietnamese refugees and immigrants, discovering our place in our family’s stories. And it is about standing in solidarity with one another to heal and reconcile, in the face of trauma and loss.
Why this drink?
I’m pairing this novel with a phở-inspired drink, with lime and Thai basil – from soup bowl to cocktail glass!
This recipe is adapted from abitwholesomely.com’s Lychee, Thai Basil and Ginger Limeade.
2 oz vodka
4 canned lychees
4 slices of ginger
8 Thai basil leaves
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz ginger-infused simple syrup
1/4 oz lychee syrup (from can)
2 oz club soda
lime, lychee, Thai basil
- Muddle the lychees, ginger, and basil leaves.
- Combine the muddled ingredients in a shaker with all other ingredients (except for club soda) and ice, and shake well.
- Strain over fresh ice.
- Top off with club soda.
- Garnish with lime, lychee, and Thai basil.
Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Gabby Rivera’s Juliet Takes a Breath (2016)
Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!