For AAPI Heritage Month, I’ve decided to rave about one of my favorite new releases of the year, A Pho Love Story by Loan Le. Think of Romeo and Juliet, but with two teenagers caught between the feud of their families’ rival pho restaurants.
I absolutely adored this book. It was charming, funny, relatable, and swoonworthy. Since I’ve grown up with the Vietnamese side of my family, the feelings I felt while reading this book felt indescribable. From the food I’d grown up with, to seeing phrases my family used everyday, and the struggles I’ve faced with immigrant parents. Some of these are more subtle, like plucking your grandparents’ gray hairs with tweezers, running around a temple, or fighting over the restaurant bill. There were even parallels to me voicing my desire to be a writer to my mother, who promptly offered her basement for me to live in.
Above all, this novel illustrates two very different people who’d been avoiding each other all their lives suddenly finding themselves together, and unable to let go. The book displayed what can happen when old wounds heal, and the beauty of staying together in a place that doesn’t want you in the first place.
I will say, there are some hard parts to read about Asian parent expectations and guilt-tripping, but if it didn’t have those things, it wouldn’t be relatable. The book portrayed a real and raw picture of what it’s like to grow up as a second-generation Vietnamese immigrant, and I highly recommend it to anyone. The romance is slow-ish, but that makes for a realistic story. I feel that anyone who reads this can get a better understanding of a different cultural background than their own, and that’s what we need in this world. Marginalized people are not their trauma. We deserve love and happiness and all the tropes in the world.
Oftentimes, when I want to find a book written by an Asian author in general (never mind a Vietnamese one specifically), I find the same books on every list. I wish there were many more pho love stories out there on the top selling shelves. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you?