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Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,040 Ratings  ·  171 Reviews
A superb new graphic memoir in which an inspired artist/storyteller reveals the road that brought his family to where they are today: Vietnamerica

GB Tran is a young Vietnamese American artist who grew up distant from (and largely indifferent to) his family’s history. Born and raised in South Carolina as a son of immigrants, he knew that his parents had fled Vietnam durin
Hardcover, 281 pages
Published January 25th 2011 by Villard
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Maus I by Art SpiegelmanPersepolis by Marjane SatrapiFun Home by Alison BechdelStitches by David SmallBlankets by Craig Thompson
best memoir graphic novels
32nd out of 189 books — 264 voters
The Complete Maus by Art SpiegelmanThe Complete Persepolis by Marjane SatrapiHark! A Vagrant by Kate BeatonMaus I by Art SpiegelmanPride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan
History through graphic novels
109th out of 327 books — 272 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jun 18, 2015 Forrest rated it really liked it
I connected with Vietnamerica on a couple of levels, emotionally.

First, my earliest recall-able memories are from my time spent as a child in the Philippines, at Clark Air Force Base, 1973-75. Take a careful look at those years - yep, I was there when South Vietnam fell to the Vietminh. I clearly remember driving past the flight-line to go with my mother to the commissary for groceries and seeing a pair of Chinooks landing. One sported a big white square with a red cross emblazoned on it. I saw
Seth T.
Nov 11, 2011 Seth T. rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics

Easily one of the more interesting aspects of Art Spiegelman's Maus (at least narratively speaking) is the interaction between the author's character and a past he knows little of. Spiegelman tries to understand his father's place in historical events from a place divorced locationally, culturally, and historically from the world in which his father formerly lived. In Vietnamerica, GB Tran unveils his own association with a family history of which he was almost entirely ignorant. His work seems
Mar 09, 2012 Sandy rated it it was amazing
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 jo
Ken Ransom
Mar 30, 2015 Ken Ransom rated it really liked it
This isn’t a linear narrative. G.B. Tran tells an inter-generational tale about how Vietnam’s wars shaped his family. It starts in present-day Vietnam, then jumps between Tran’s experiences growing up in America and different members of his family recounting their lives in Vietnam.

Tran juggles the points of view of his father, mother, siblings, uncle, and his grandparents.

The jumbled narrative can be a challenge and sometimes it's tough to follow the shifting narrators. If you get lost there is
Feb 18, 2012 Jenny rated it liked it
Recommended to Jenny by: Chester
Vietamerica is a narrative exploration through which GB Tran works through his complicated family histories and it's his attempt to understand his enigmatic father and mother. Tran shows he was pretty much indifferent to his parent’s story during his adolescence and this book was the impetus in his adulthood to map out that history and to maybe make up for his previous asshole-ness.

As a work of art, Vietamerica is amazing. The art is dynamic, inventive, varied, and the coloring sets the mood for
Sep 18, 2011 Whitney rated it liked it
Books like this certainly take a lot of courage to write and I was certainly impressed it it. In fact, I sat and read it all in one afternoon--not because the plot pulled me in, but because the intensity was so strong I knew I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about it if I did put it down.

There is no doubt that GB is an artist because he is able to provide the reader with important ideas without words. On the other hand, I had a very difficult time following it because it was all over the place
Jan 26, 2011 Kristen rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Seth Hahne
Recommended to Kristen by: Amazon Vine
I have a limited exposure to graphic novels and memoirs, but I was particularly moved by Persepolis and I wanted to like Vietnamerica. On many levels, I did. The art was good, and I only had a black and white ARC. I am sure it will be better with color. The story was interesting and I think readers will enjoy and learn from this book.

However, I found it confusing on many levels. The story follows Vietnam through a number of geo-political shifts which were explained in brief but could have been e
Feb 23, 2012 Pauline rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels, own
My own parent also immigrated to America from Vietnam (even though we are ethnically Chinese) so the stores told about GB Tran's family really resonated with me. Although my parents did not exactly deal with the exact same things that Tran's family went thorough there is a familiarity in reading about the troubles and sentiments about leaving your home country and returning many years later.

Any first generation American child would be able to relate to the struggles that are depicted in this. E
Ismael Galvan
Jun 07, 2015 Ismael Galvan rated it it was amazing
I was very happy to find a comic book about Vietnam. Though I am too young to have had anything to do with the Vietnam war, I am fascinated by the era and its creative outlets, especially music and protest.

Vietnamerica is a memoir told from the perspective of G.B. Tran, a first-generation born son to parents who emigrated from war-torn Vietnam. In his adulthood, G.B.'s grandparents die, so he must accompany his parents to the funerals back in Vietnam. The reunion with his family and ancestral co
Jul 21, 2015 Deb rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
I am a first generation Vietnamese born American. So throughout my life, I have heard snippets of the war from across the ocean. As far as I was concern, the Vietnam War was pretty much the only thing I knew about the motherland. My parents talked about it as if it was the only memory they had of their time in Vietnam. I remember trying to learn more about their life before their arduous journey to America, and them somehow talking with both anger and indifference. Even though they talked about ...more
As the only member of his family born in the United States, Tran grew up largely indifferent to the experience of his immigrant family in Vietnam and how they came to the United States following the fall of Saigon in April 1975. Tran decides to return to Vietnam in April 2008 with his parents after much prodding on the part of the his mother and a decisive edict from his stereotypically stern and distant father, and this comic documents the experiences of his parents, grandparents, and uncle dur ...more
Rick Silva
Jan 14, 2015 Rick Silva rated it it was amazing
I actually bought this a couple of years ago and had put it aside. It got pulled back out when and packed with books I was bringing on the move to Vietnam (I pretty much grabbed up all of the Vietnam-related books I had in the massive to-be-read pile, which amounted to, well, several).

I'm glad that I read it now, because I always feel more connected to a book when I have some firsthand knowledge of the book's geography, and I've had the good fortune to visit Vung Tau, which much of this graphic
perfect perfect perfect
i know exactly how g.b tran felt when he wrote this
the golden spiral panels were so genius in this book
somebody please get me a tissue or two or two hundred
2nd generation hurts
i will re-read this and then re-read it again and again
the colors -- why do i suddenly have a
Really beautiful personal story about the creator's family's history in Vietnam. I haven't read many stories about what it was like to be a citizen of Vietnam during the war. Tran traces his family lineage, talking about his grandparents and his parents. The illustrations are just stunning and there's also a page or two of photographs of his family. He uses lots of different styles of panels, including some absolutely amazing full-pagers that you want to frame and put up in your house. One sligh ...more
Oct 16, 2013 Claudia rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
I picked "Vietnamerica" because the cover appealed to me while rummaging through the non-fiction travel section of my public library. I also thought it was pretty cool to find a graphic novel as 'travel' book.

"Vietnamerica" often left me confused. The characters weren't distinctive enough and the switching forth and back between present and past and different viewpoints (or collective memory) didn't help either (although some of the confusion was solved after having read the next part). This is
May 14, 2011 Scott rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this book! Only my second graphic novel, but I'm getting hooked on the format after two great reads!

I'm a bedtime reader - but with this book (and perhaps all graphic novels) I noticed that it was better to read the book in full light during instead of with just my reading lamp - the colors and artwork were much easier to appreciate in full light! I also liked how GB Tran used different graphic cues (font, text, colors) to identify the various speakers and time periods of the memo
Dec 15, 2010 Tony rated it liked it
This graphic memoir tackles one of the crucial themes of the American immigrant experience: the tension between the first generation immigrants' struggle to get to America and their children's relative lack of interest in that struggle and their cultural heritage. The family story being told here is that of Gia-Bao ("GB") Tran, who was born in South Carolina to parents who escaped Vietnam hours before the fall of Saigon in 1975. While he touches upon the problems of cultural assimilation experie ...more
Feb 23, 2012 Gayle rated it liked it
I do like some graphic novels, Satrapi's Persepolis, and Speigelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale for example. However, for some reason, I have problems focusing on those GNs with many, many details on a page. It's what I call "too busy" for me. This is just me and I wish it were different, but...

I'm certain that this is a beautiful story about a 1st generation American learning the intricacies of what makes a family history important, and the intimacies not usually spoken of in America, leading him
Feb 14, 2012 Corry rated it liked it
This is my very first graphic novel, a genre that takes time to get used to as there is so much to "see" and in this case, the story went awol sometime...who' s is telling me what now....
I regret that the author didn't go deeper in the first years of the family in America, it must have been soooo difficult for them. although , when you are in a safe country, you don't tend to complain about the different life style, and maybe you try to hang on to a little bit of the old country.
It's very inter
Aug 14, 2015 Don rated it it was amazing
“Our family wasn’t alone, we weren’t a special case.”

I'm a 2nd generation Vietnamese-American and Vietnamerica deeply moved me. It is uncanny how GB Tran's family and experience growing up in America mirrored my own. In the stories and personalities of his parents, I saw my own parents. In the indifference and lack of connection to family history of the author, I saw myself. I was gripped with emotion as I read this, shedding tears as I started to better understand my parents and my own roots.

Stacey Nguyen
Jun 14, 2015 Stacey Nguyen rated it really liked it
I picked up this book after seeing the author speak on a panel of Vietnamese American writers. One thing Tran said that really struck me was this: "In order to understand myself, I needed to understand my parents."

As an avid reader of Vietnamese American authors, I can confidently say that most people grow tired of long-winded memoirs about the war and fragmented families. This kind of model lends itself to essentializing/limiting what the Vietnamese American canon can be (sad historical memoirs
Nancy Nguyen
This was actually an amazing narrative of the Vietnam War. I can sort of relate to parts, but this has more to do with an older generation I'm not familiar with. It was a fast read. The art was poignant. There were parts that were so subtle and clever, that I wish I were writing a graphic novel, too.
Michael Burnam-fink
Mar 27, 2015 Michael Burnam-fink rated it really liked it
The good folks at War is Boring described Vietnameria as Maus for the Vietnam War. I'm not sure if that's true; I don't generally read comix and Maus isn't even on the pile. What I can say is that this is a book about identity and trauma, about survival and family. The story follows G.B. Tran's family, starting with the funerals of grandparents, moving through the childhoods of his parents, the escalating war, and then G.B. coming to grips with his almost unknown family. The story is tragic, mos ...more
I am beyond grateful that I came into contact with this book. I checked out many graphic novels that are supposedly critically acclaimed and yet I found them to be complete rubbish. Then I randomly picked this book up without knowing much information and right away I am drawn to this story thanks to the illustration. I do not know how many times I have found graphic novels to be phenomenal partly by having the best illustrations. I honestly believe if you have the best graphics then you already ...more
Jun 07, 2014 Robert rated it really liked it
"You can't look at our family in a vacuum and apply your myopic contemporary western filter to them."

This quote from GB Tran's father in Vietnamerica is one of the more thought provoking quotes from anything I've read this year, comics medium or not. As an avid reader of history, I've found myself having read a number of books about both the French and American wars in Vietnam. But I never read anything that truly looked at those same experiences from a non-Western source, especially one that wa
Maurice Carlos Ruffin
I came across this graphic novel in the "Read" branch of the New Orleans library. (My home library, the one I enjoyed when I was a boy.) I was walking out of the library with two other books when I saw this one on a display in the stairwell. Apparently, I was meant to read it.

New Orleans has one of the largest populations of Vietnamese people in America. Many of my elementary school classmates were Vietnamese-American and the youth orchestra I played in was, at times, majority Vietnamese-America
LAPL Reads
Jan 29, 2014 LAPL Reads rated it really liked it
"You should ask them about it sometime. There's a lot about your parents you don't know. And they won't be alive forever to answer your questions."

On April 25, 1975, GB Tran's family fled Vietnam, just days before Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese Army. A year later, he was born in South Carolina, and grew up a junk food-eating, video game-playing American kid with little interest in his family's history. However, when his last two surviving grandparents die within a few months of each other,
Tim Chaplin
Aug 27, 2012 Tim Chaplin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The graphic novel Vietnamerica is the family story of GB Tran whose parents fled Vietnam in 1975 after the fall of Saigon when the American’s gave up the war and the tanks rolled in from North Vietnam. The author was born in 1976 in South Carolina in the USA. Growing up in the US his life is much different to their past experiences and he is not really interested in his family history. This changes when he visits Vietnam after the death of his grandparents who died within months of each other. T ...more
May 12, 2011 Kyle rated it it was amazing
Five stars! GB Tran's work is a brilliant portrayal of the struggles and discontinuities of his family/ancestral history--he gives us exactly what history should be: always fluid, polymorphous and made up of varying scopes/angles. VIETNAMERICA is GB Tran, son of Vietnam immigrants, exploration of his parent's past and the conflicted homeland they left behind. Along the way Tran is constantly asking: What do I care? It's in the past. In a note Gia-Bao-Tran, his father quotes Confucius, "a man wit ...more
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
This year, I seem to have read a lot of books about characters (real or fictional) who try to get to know their roots better. Some go to their native country or the country their ancestors are from. Others reconnect with their families. I don't know if I'm semi-consciously levitating towards such books or if it's all chance. This is the second time that I'm reading a book on such a theme via the graphic medium (the first was The Complete MAUS). I was curious about how this would turn out. On one ...more
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Wild Things: YA G...: Vietnamerica 2 43 Jul 17, 2012 08:40PM  
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Gia-Bao (aka GB) Tran was born in South Carolina in 1976, a year after his parents fled Vietnam. He aspires to continue living the good life as a Brooklyn cartoonist/illustrator thanks, in large part, to the endless patience of his wife. His parents constantly remind him that if this “art thingy” doesn’t work out, he can, as the only family member born in the United States, be president instead.
More about G.B. Tran...

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