Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey

GB Tran, Villard, $20 (288p) ISBN 978-0-345-50872-0
Like Art Spiegelman's Maus, this personal memoir tries to make sense of a shattered family history. Tran was born in America shortly after his family fled Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. However, he sees how deeply his parents still feel connected to their homeland, even as they can't fully admit their dismay at being cut off from it. They have been forced to keep many secrets from others, and learned to keep many secrets from themselves, too. By visiting Vietnam and exploring memories, Tran learns how his grandfather, a lifelong Vietminh supporter, was horrified at the brutal results of the Communist victory and how his father became a glum autocrat after his career as an artist was destroyed. He watches how his parents interact uneasily with the swarm of relatives and friends they left behind. Now Tran tries to make sense of it all. The comic utilizes a dizzying barrage of effects to depict the characters' confusing experience: different lettering styles, realistic action set against full-page government posters, sound effects swirling from panel to panel, action-packed panoramas breaking apart as South Vietnam collapses. The result is disturbing but also uplifting. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/29/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
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