17 Sep / House of Sticks by Ly Tran [in Booklist]
In 1993, 3-year-old Ly Tran arrived in Queens with her parents and three older brothers from South Vietnam. Their new apartment was not the nhà là – “a house made of sticks and dried leaves” – that had been their former home; stability, however, was not guaranteed in their new lives.
In order to survive and flourish, Tran endured extreme poverty, child labor, racism, mental illness, and relentless uncertainty. School provided an escape, but Tran’s deteriorating eyesight almost derailed her education. Her father – who suffered from PTSD after a tortuous imprisonment – forbade glasses, believing her need for correction was a government conspiracy. Tran withdrew further into herself, highly functioning but deeply depressed, until serious intervention eventually helped her reach solid ground.
Author-read memoirs seem to be their own growing category, albeit some are far more efficacious than others. Tran’s narration is an enhancement to her debut, imbuing her words with exacting fluency in two languages and augmenting her written memories with empathic aural recall.