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The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam (Adventura Books) Paperback – September 25, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Adventura Books
  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Seal Press (September 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580051006
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580051002
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,444,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Part memoir and part travelogue, The House on Dream Street offers a compelling glimpse into Vietnam more than 20 years after the war. Author Dana Sachs foregoes the history lesson and instead takes us into the day-to-day lives of working-class people attempting to succeed in a fledgling capitalist economy. Captivated by the once-forbidden country during a visit in 1989, Sachs returned two years later, took a room with a young family, and set out to immerse herself in the culture.

One of the most charming aspects of the book is that Sachs lacks the bravado you'd expect from a solo traveler. Her slow grasp of the language causes no end of frustration, and her Western looks--"bigger, paler, and richer"--make her an object of unwanted attention. Other facets of crowded Hanoi prove equally challenging: maneuvering a bicycle through dangerously narrow streets, fending off the frequent advances of married Vietnamese men, and coping with the complete lack of privacy as well as the elusive Vietnamese concept of destiny. Despite the often-primitive conditions, the watchful eyes of the secret police, and the intolerable, mildewy weather, Sachs manages to portray her newfound home as an explosion of sensory experience, where "the rich, woody scent of freshly steamed rice" fills the air and "commuters whizzed past... their bright clothes trailing pink, orange, purple, and green across the blue-black asphalt of the road." And then there are the people: Tung, her friendly but on-the-make landlord who loves heavy metal; Huong, his critical but loyal wife who harbors untold hidden strengths; Tra, desperate to return to the States and get her doctorate, even at the expense of her marriage; and Linh, also yearning to escape her husband's tight reins. In fact, most of the women with whom Sachs bonds are torn between their family obligations and a dawning realization of their own rights.

Even as her friends struggle to balance personal goals with marital happiness, Sachs finds herself drawn to Phai, a quiet, inexperienced motorcycle mechanic. Their love affair, illegal and unspoken, flames steadily and then flickers out, as the author finds herself unable to overcome their differences and the prospect of marrying into Phai's impoverished family. In the end, she realizes her love for Phai is only a personification of her romance with the country itself--but it's as a chronicle of that romance that The House on Dream Street truly succeeds. In telling the story of her own discovery and growth, Sachs provides a distinctively personal view of a rapidly evolving country as well as the families who are weathering the transition. --Lisa Costantino --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Sachs calls the bustling Hanoi thoroughfare where she lived in the early 1990s "Dream Street" because of the prevalence there of the city's most sought-after motor bikeAthe Honda Dream. During the nine transformative years over which she has visited and lived in Vietnam, the "sleek and elegant" Dream, and others of its ilk, muscled out the ubiquitous bicycle. Her memoir covers the time from her initial plunge into the country, as a touring backpacker in 1989, to her triumphant return in 1998 with the husband and son her Vietnamese friends had long prodded her to obtain (even the cyclo driver who first ferried her to "Dream Street" announced her as "Twenty-nine years old. Not married yet"). Most of this engrossing book is devoted to detailing the blissful and exhausting six months Sachs spent settling into a corner of Hanoi in 1992. A journalist who has written for Mother Jones and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sachs deftly conveys the strange circumstance of being an American walking "comfortably through the streets of Hanoi." Her first VietnamAthe war-torn country she knew from TVAhaunts her. She feels compelled to apologize when she meets an injured Vietnamese veteran, and is perplexed when she encounters people who suffered terrible losses in the war who harbor no ill will. However, Sachs is careful not to dwell too much in the past. The real joy in her work is the engaging street-level view of Hanoi that she provides: of a run-in with two men who strongly desire to sing ABBA songs to her; of the social life of the neighborhood tea stall and the warm and gossipy grandmother who runs it; and the effects of the vacillating economy on her new friends. In moments like theseAand there are many of themASachs bravely renders Vietnam through fresh eyes. Agent, Sarah Lazin. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

He is a great thinker and I highly recommend this book if you are interested in LGB issues.
N. Nash
Noone I know has ever heard of the book and the friends that have read it are singing the praises of the author and the story.
Sally G. Ferguson
Aside from Ms. Sach's wonderful writing style, her Prologue pulled me in and the story never me let go.
D. Stern

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By TG Smith on March 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is fun and well-written. The author is personally engaging and self-effacing. But the book is not so much about Vietnam as it is about the author herself. She discusses her reactions to the people and the people?s reactions to her. The Vietnamese in the story just play a supporting role, allowing her to display her growth and her misplaced sense of guilt she shoulders on behalf of her own country.
This is not to say that there aren?t some interesting observations made about Vietnam. But they are few. If you are interested in learning about one individual?s growth and experience through immersion in a foreign culture, this would be an excellent book for you. But I would not recommend this book as a vehicle for learning about modern Vietnam. (Look instead to Sacred Willow, Shadows and Wind or Understanding Vietnam).
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Allison Martin on April 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The House on Dream Street is the story of Dana Sach's sojourn in Vietnam; as she explores day to day life in Hanoi. As she becomes intimately involved in the activities and lives of her circle of acquaintances - her landlords and their extended families, neighbors and the street cafes on Dream Street (where she lives), and ultimately her lover, she beings to see beneath the surface and to discover Vietnam as it is, rather than as she expected.
Readers will enjoy this personal account of life in Vietnam. She has a gift for recounting each conversation verbatim, so that the account of her time flows swiftly as you read. Interspersed with the dialogue are her thoughtful comments on Vietnamese life and her personal reactions to events.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By TG Smith on March 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is fun and well-written. The author is personally engaging and self-effacing. But the book is not so much about Vietnam as it is about the author herself. She discusses her reactions to the people and the people?s reactions to her. The Vietnamese in the story just play a supporting role, allowing her to display her growth and her misplaced sense of guilt she shoulders on behalf of her own country.
This is not to say that there aren?t some interesting observations made about Vietnam. But they are few. If you are interested in learning about one individual?s growth and experience through immersion in a foreign culture, this would be an excellent book for you. But I would not recommend this book as a vehicle for learning about modern Vietnam. (Look instead to Sacred Willow, Shadows and Wind or Understanding Vietnam).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As an American living and working in Vietnam I was quite interested to read Dana Sach's novel. For the most part, I found her observations of Vietnam to be both insightful and honest. Her honesty is apparant in the way that she acknowledges her early naievety in her dealings with the people of Vietnam. The story was particularly interesting to me because it reveals Vietnam through the eyes of a female expat.
The novel is not without problems however. I found her chronology difficult to follow at times. Additionally, at one point she states that she spent the better part of a decade living in Vietnam, and trying to return to Vietnam; yet, it appears she only lived there for 2 years. That seems like a lot more "trying to return" than actually living there.
Her obsession with the 'American War' in her reflections can also get a bit tedious at times.
Overall, however, it is an interesting read with numerous insightful observations.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By jason reece on March 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book offers an concise, realistic look into the everyday lives of gays and lesbians. The dynamics of "our" relationships and how we choose to make our homes, lives and create our families are revealed thru the tales of different couples. I found this book especially fascinating and useful in my situation. My partner and I have an extended chosen family as we live with another couple. We can relate to so many issues faced by some of the couples the book. This is a definite MUST READ for any gay couple!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I live in Viet Nam and have for a very long time. Much that was written in the book was so true of experiences that I have felt and I thought the author was honest and true in her experiences.
This city however and most of Viet Nam as is true of a great many places in Asia is a prostitute haven. I found it odd that on Dream Street she probably found the one and only non sexually experienced guy that exists! This threw me totally off balance and colored my view of experiences in the book. The all Vietnamese past time seems to be having love affairs and this has been going on for a very long time. Most of her friends were unhappy in their marriages which is the norm here. Viet Nam has one of the highest divorce rates in the world. Women are sought after, married, have babies and oftentimes quite abandoned after the search and catch stage. Most of my friends have wives, at least one steady girlfriend, frequent ladies of the night several times a month and spend the rest of the time drinking with their buddies and going to Karoke where the girls huddle close and sing with them. I think that her feeling that she was this guys first love is tender but HIGHLY unlikely. The rest of the book was a good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Susan Blumberg-Kason VINE VOICE on December 8, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I had traveled to Vietnam at about the same time the author moved there the first time. I didn't know what to expect from the book, but thought it would bring back my own trip many years ago. Almost from the beginning, I felt like I had traveled to a place I had never been. Sachs's understanding of Vietnam and Vietnamese culture is so deep that I saw Vietnam in a new light. She accurately depicts the changing society in the mid 1990s, as communism gave way to capitalism. Her interpersonal relationships with the friends she made in Hanoi were honest, deep and complicated, not superficial or demeaning. I felt as though I was a bystander in Hanoi because the characters in her memoir are all so vivid. I give her a lot of credit for being so open to living in Vietnam. She never complains about the red-tape or prevalence of bribery in Vietnam, things that often drive foreigners crazy. Even the most open-minded people can become cynical when living in a society where you can't even get an answer from a government official without offering a bribe. She alludes to her frustration with these practices after she returns to live in Hanoi in the mid-90s, but for the most part seems very comfortable just going with the flow. I also enjoyed her discussions about the war and meeting with veterans who had fought against the US. For so long, Americans looked down on Vietnam, but Sachs shows how the Vietnamese took a different approach and looked highly upon Americans, even those who fought in the war. The chapter about John McCain was especially fascinating! I highly recommend this book for anyone who has been to Vietnam, plans to go, or is interested in an American woman's experience living in a foreign culture.
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