The Gangster We Are All Looking For


Author: Lê Thi Diem Thúy

Title: The Gangster We Are All Looking For

Genre: Multicultural, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: May 6, 2003

Number of Pages: 160

Geographical Setting: San Diego, California

Time Period: 1970s, 1980s

Plot Summary: The unnamed narrator, a six year old girl, is flees Saigon to California leaving her mother and deceased brother behind.  The story jumps around in time detailing different accounts of her childhood playing with friends in a washing machine box to fights between her mother and father where afterward, things would be broken and people would be bruised.  Their marriage is strained by their efforts to adapt to American culture, but also by the memories left behind.  The father was a “Buddhist gangster” which left his wife’s parents to be opposed to the marriage.  The narrator with a conflicted and troubled mind runs away from at sixteen.  The story is lyrical and relaxed and the stories fold together like poems written from different points of the narrator’s life.

Subject Headings: Family Relationships, Vietnamese-Americans, Father and Daughter

Appeal: detailed, descriptive, engrossing, moving, introspective, character-centered, flashbacks, poetic, nostalgic

3 terms that best describe this book: compelling, emotionally-charged, poignant

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Madre and I: a Memoir of Our Immigrant Lives by Guillermo Reyes

This is the story of Reyes life leaving Chile to live in Los Angeles with his mother while coping with sexuality and body issues.  It is also about immigrants living in California finding their place.  (memoir, poignant)

This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

Wolff chronicles his past discussing his wandering mother, his abusive step-father, and the strange processes of growing up.  Similar to Lê’s novel, this memoir discusses an abusive home life and is a coming of age story.  (nostalgic, reflective)

The Unwanted by Kien Nguyen

The son of an American businessman and a wealthy Vietnamese woman reflects on his life living in Saigon in 1975 after the exodus of the American troops and his journey to the United States.  Similar to Lê’s novel, this work discusses life in Saigon where she fled to come to America. (engaging, compelling)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao

This coming of age story is about a Vietnamese girl who comes to America and learns about her family’s past in Vietnam. (nostalgic, moving)

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

This novel encompasses the story of two generations of four Chinese American women and their daughters. (witty, encompassing)

Yellow: Stories by Don Lee

This work contains stories of Asian American lives focusing on ethnic diversities but also universal fears of love, failure, abandonment.  Similar to Lê’s work it is about Asian Americans living in California.  (literary, unpredicted)

Name: Christina Freitag



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