Author: Ly Tran
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Book Description: An intimate, beautifully written coming-of-age memoir recounting a young girl’s journey from war-torn Vietnam to Ridgewood, Queens, and her struggle to find her voice amid clashing cultural expectations.
Ly Tran is just a toddler in 1993 when she and her family immigrate from a small town along the Mekong river in Vietnam to a two-bedroom railroad apartment in Queens. Ly’s father, a former lieutenant in the South Vietnamese army, spent nearly a decade as a POW, and their resettlement is made possible through a humanitarian program run by the US government. Soon after they arrive, Ly joins her parents and three older brothers sewing ties and cummerbunds piece-meal on their living room floor to make ends meet.
As they navigate this new landscape, Ly finds herself torn between two worlds. She knows she must honor her parents’ Buddhist faith and contribute to the family livelihood, working long hours at home and eventually as a manicurist alongside her mother at a nail salon in Brownsville, Brooklyn, that her parents take over. But at school, Ly feels the mounting pressure to blend in.
A growing inability to see the blackboard presents new challenges, especially when her father forbids her from getting glasses, calling her diagnosis of poor vision a government conspiracy. His frightening temper and paranoia leave an indelible mark on Ly’s sense of self. Who is she outside of everything her family expects of her?
Told in a spare, evocative voice that, with flashes of humor, weaves together her family’s immigration experience with her own fraught and courageous coming of age, House of Sticks is a timely and powerful portrait of one girl’s struggle to reckon with her heritage and forge her own path.
Rating: 5 Stars
Review: A debut memoir from Ly Tran, who immigrated to the US with her parents and three brothers from Vietnam, when she was just a small girl.
This is a heartbreaking story of the struggles Tran had from her parents basically running a sweatshop out of their small Brooklyn apartment just to make ends meat, to her struggles with education, some of that brought on by her parents never giving her glasses. She also recounts her long battle with depression and everything that she struggled with due to that diagnosis.
Ly Tran, completely gives us her on paper and does not leave anything out. I found myself rooting for her. While she struggled for many years, Ly finally pulls through, to give us this exceptional book. Once she was able to surround herself with positive people, you could see her personal growth skyrocket.
This was a riveting memoir, that will stay with me for quite awhile. This feels like the true American story, and I think we all will be a little bit better for reading this amazing story.
Thank you NetGalley and Scribner for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.