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Posted March 10, 2012
I am almost too emotional right now to write this review. This is because I am also a second-generation Vietnamese American who has been largely indifferent to my parents’ history until recently. GB’s family saga holds personal significance to me, because it brings into stark relief the generational and cultural divide that separates my own family. However, I believe that other readers without a similar background to the author will also be drawn to this visceral graphic memoir.
Tran’s family journey jumps back and forth in time and place, spanning decades and continents. But the order in which he lays out the events feels familiar rather than confusing, as if you are there with him gathering the pieces to his family’s story. You are swept back to his grandparents’ and parents’ daily lives, and begin to understand the causes and events leading up to the Vietnam War. Tran is a genius at capturing emotions and facial expressions in his illustrations. Every color, line, and layout brings the desperation and destruction of war, as well as the complexity of human connections (and disconnections) to life. This isn’t just his family’s story, but the story of every family around the world touched by war and political corruption.
I cried reading the final pages of this book, knowing that creating this book was a process of healing for GB Tran, and reading it has helped me on my own way to healing. Vietnamerica will give you a new perspective on the Vietnam War, being American, and what family really means. I borrowed this book from the library, but intend to purchase a copy. It is a story I must share with my family and our next generation.