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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for House of Sticks

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mai Nguyễn

    On the landscape of nail salons and her family’s sweat shop, Ly Tran paints the songs of her courage, dreams, and her fight for sanity and humanity. This is the story of a magnificent lotus who rises up from a pond of mud – the mud of poverty, racism, inherited trauma, depression – with the power and radiance of her storytelling. This is a book that demands us to look beyond just the name of each and every war refugee. This is a book that gives us light.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Shereena

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Note: I received an ARC of this book through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. House of Sticks: A Memoir is a beautiful yet heart-breaking story about Ly Tran and her family’s immigration from South Vietnam in 1993. Her family arrives in New York and both parents struggle to build a life for themselves and their children. The book begins by describing their immigration and the struggles they faced during those first few years. The book then takes you through key events and exp Note: I received an ARC of this book through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. House of Sticks: A Memoir is a beautiful yet heart-breaking story about Ly Tran and her family’s immigration from South Vietnam in 1993. Her family arrives in New York and both parents struggle to build a life for themselves and their children. The book begins by describing their immigration and the struggles they faced during those first few years. The book then takes you through key events and experiences Ly had as a youth, through high school, and then into her college years. I found this book to be written in eloquent prose, in such a way as not to elicit emotional response through words but rather through experiences she endured. Her words are written in more of a factual manner, yet her story at times is quite sad. This book opened my eyes to the effects immigrant children often face while navigating two cultures simultaneously (particularly around the expectations that come from both). I found this valuable as a teacher because it allowed me to see this experience from a first-hand perspective. Ly’s story also demonstrates the value her family placed on parental obedience and the extent to which she would go to uphold this duty. There were many aspect’s of Ly’s story which, to me, demonstrated the importance of educating children outside of standard subjects/topics. For example, the importance of teaching emotional intelligence, sex education (i.e. what is and is not appropriate and how to speak up if something bad happens to you), and allowing students to have social experiences through adolescence (so they can learn how to navigate those situations). Ly’s story also highlights the stifling effects of what I interpreted to be imposter syndrome - which she first seems to encounter in high school but becomes much more debilitating in college. While reading this book, I was at times lost on dates and specific years that different events occurred. It would have been helpful to know her and her siblings birth years as well. I often found that specific years and dates were not included and this made it difficult to process Ly’s story in the greater context of what might have been happening in the United States at that time. For most of the book she mentions that she and her siblings slept on straw mats but later describes it as a straw mat on top of a mattress (was the mattress added later on?). I also would have liked to hear more about Joseph. She speaks of him quite a bit when he is introduced, however there is a section of chapters following this that provide no mention of him. I started to wonder for a while if he had disappeared from her life or if their relationship had changed. Overall, I loved this book. It was very hard to put down. Although her story is quite sad (and I honestly cannot process the fact that she went so long without corrective lenses (I am not sure how I would have handled this)) I am really glad that she wrote this book to share it with the world.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jill Dobbe

    Ly Tran and her family arrived in the U.S. from Vietnam when she was very young. Her mother, father, and three brothers lived together in Queens, New York, where they found work sewing ties and cummerbunds. As children, she and her brothers worked alongside their parents in sweatshop conditions trying to survive. Later on, her parents bought a nail salon, where Ly also worked alongside her mother. Her early life was marked by poverty, hunger, and hard work. Ly's father was somewhat tyrannical, bu Ly Tran and her family arrived in the U.S. from Vietnam when she was very young. Her mother, father, and three brothers lived together in Queens, New York, where they found work sewing ties and cummerbunds. As children, she and her brothers worked alongside their parents in sweatshop conditions trying to survive. Later on, her parents bought a nail salon, where Ly also worked alongside her mother. Her early life was marked by poverty, hunger, and hard work. Ly's father was somewhat tyrannical, but Ly always obeyed him, even going without much-needed glasses for half of her life simply because her father thought eyeglasses were part of a government conspiracy and refused to allow Ly to get them. Ly's brothers moved away and created separate lives from their family. Ly watched as they excelled in school and work. She also did well academically, but high-functioning depression took hold of her causing her to fail in her first college attempts until she was accepted to Columbia. While there, and with the help of various friends, Ly eventually gained self-confidence and self-worth. House of Sticks is a raw and honest look at what life is like for a refugee family that relocates to the U.S. Ly gives readers an even closer look at her own life as a refugee Vietnamese girl living with traditional parents who continue to abide by their own cultural rules, customs and values while living outside of their home country. Thank you Netgalley, Ly Tran, and publisher for this ARC.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane Turpin

    Thank you so so much to Scribner for the gifted ARC of Tran’s memoir. Ly Tran is simply a brilliant writer. She brings the reader through her own coming-of-age story, beginning with her family’s immigration to the United States from Vietnam and chronicling her childhood to early adulthood. Ly relays her story to the reader through short anecdotes that move forward in linear time. She is so beautifully authentic and vulnerable, allowing the reader into her childhood largely defined by an immense p Thank you so so much to Scribner for the gifted ARC of Tran’s memoir. Ly Tran is simply a brilliant writer. She brings the reader through her own coming-of-age story, beginning with her family’s immigration to the United States from Vietnam and chronicling her childhood to early adulthood. Ly relays her story to the reader through short anecdotes that move forward in linear time. She is so beautifully authentic and vulnerable, allowing the reader into her childhood largely defined by an immense poverty that necessitated her and her brothers’ underage labor, as well as her own mental health journey. I deeply enjoyed following Ly’s reflections. Her nuanced and compassionate perspective rendered a multidimensional understanding of those closest to her, and she covered a wide number of complicated and immeasurably important topics, including generational trauma, feminism, and the importance of treating individual needs in education. Thank you so much to Ly Tran for sharing so personally in this beautiful memoir. 🐢

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stella

    House of Sticks by Ly Tran My mom came to the United States as a 20 year old, mother of two. She left behind everyone she knew and moved to the middle of the country to live with her husband, who she barely knew. She grew up in Cần Thơ, along the Mekong Delta. Ly Tran came to the US as a small child. She spent time in Thailand prior to arriving, but her earliest memories are of eggs and soy sauce. Then…the cold streets of Ridgewood, Brooklyn. Along with her three brothers and both of her parents, House of Sticks by Ly Tran My mom came to the United States as a 20 year old, mother of two. She left behind everyone she knew and moved to the middle of the country to live with her husband, who she barely knew. She grew up in Cần Thơ, along the Mekong Delta. Ly Tran came to the US as a small child. She spent time in Thailand prior to arriving, but her earliest memories are of eggs and soy sauce. Then…the cold streets of Ridgewood, Brooklyn. Along with her three brothers and both of her parents, Ly struggles to adapt to America. Working as a family for a sweatshop - making ties and cummerbunds, the Tran family adapts and grows. Ly, as the only daughter, is held up to a different standard than her brothers. She’s encouraged NOT to take the specialized tests for advanced high school placement. She’s not expected to go to college. She’s expected to work alongside her mother at the family owned nail salon. Ly, instead, finds people who believe in her and encourage her to use her talents. That’s the short summary. Now, here’s what I talk about what this book meant to me. My mom worked endlessly once she arrived in America. She was a waitress (where she met my father), a seamstress sewing the W on the pockets of Wrangler blue jeans, a child care worker at a local day care, and as a nurse. She raised five daughters and a few grand kids. She also worked for almost 20 years to bring her family to the US. In 1993, my grandma, 2 uncles, 3 aunts and 2 cousins arrived in the cold winter. We stayed up late, screaming and laughing, eating on the floor of our recently converted garage. My cousins got up the next day and went to school with my younger sister. Ly’s struggles with the school system and living between two worlds connected with me in ways that I had pushed down. I was an American by birth, but half of me is Vietnamese. I was raised VERY American, but I do have very Vietnamese habits….eggs and soy sauce being a huge one. Reading about someone struggling to please her parents, but also realizing that there are other things in life to focus on. Her struggle with mental health is so familiar. The pushing it down, the seeing it as a weakness…100% the same. Ly Tran is a magnificent writer and her openness and honesty in this memoir is something so rare. Immigrant stories are so important to the fabric of America and as part of literature. I expect great things from Ly and can’t wait to read what she has next. Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book. Thank you Ly Tran for writing this. Let’s get some pho sometime.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lori Luo

    As someone who had many similar experiences to Ly, this book was both painful and joyful to read through. She tells the story of her life, starting from when her parents and 3 older brothers moved from Vietnam to New York City. Starting with almost nothing as first generation immigrants, she details the following years as they struggle to survive and grow in a foreign country. There were some moments and memories that I cried over; the story of how her father brought home donuts, telling his fami As someone who had many similar experiences to Ly, this book was both painful and joyful to read through. She tells the story of her life, starting from when her parents and 3 older brothers moved from Vietnam to New York City. Starting with almost nothing as first generation immigrants, she details the following years as they struggle to survive and grow in a foreign country. There were some moments and memories that I cried over; the story of how her father brought home donuts, telling his family that they were from work, until the family discovered that he'd begged for leftovers at the nearby Dunkin Donuts instead. The injustice and mistreatment that Ly and her mother face when they begin to work at a nail salon, especially given her mother's language barriers and inability to stand up for herself. The perpetual worry about money and making ends meet. Layered into this struggle, though, she lays bare the many shadows in her family - her father's longstanding PTSD after being a prisoner of war, the abuse her mother had to withstand, and her own struggles with mental illness and depression. Obstacle after obstacle is thrown into her life, and there's no way not to be in awe of her struggles and her triumphs. I will note that for me, I found the author's writing style and voice distant and unemotional throughout the novel. Because of this, there were some situations that I found it difficult to fully understand or empathize with her. She describes how she acted and behaved when struggling with depression, but because of how detached her tone was, it was difficult for me to fully grasp her mindset and perspective during this time. Nonetheless, this is an eye-opening piece of writing that I hope many, many others will read. Not only does it highlight the challenges so many first generation immigrants, especially of Asian descent, face but also iterates the strength of family, even if they aren't perfect. Thank you Scribner for the ARC!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    In straightforward, poignant prose, Ly Tran recounts the trials and travails of growing up in a Vietnamese-American immigrant family in Queens teetering on the edge of mental, emotional, and physical collapse from poverty, a condition exacerbated by her father's unrelenting PTSD occasioned by his 10 years of cruel imprisonment at the hands of the new Communist Vietnamese regime. Hers is a measured, frank, and very often heartbreaking voice in the face of misunderstandings, humiliations, and disa In straightforward, poignant prose, Ly Tran recounts the trials and travails of growing up in a Vietnamese-American immigrant family in Queens teetering on the edge of mental, emotional, and physical collapse from poverty, a condition exacerbated by her father's unrelenting PTSD occasioned by his 10 years of cruel imprisonment at the hands of the new Communist Vietnamese regime. Hers is a measured, frank, and very often heartbreaking voice in the face of misunderstandings, humiliations, and disappointments as she and her siblings strive for acculturation and acceptance in a too-often inhospitable urban environment. There is no rest for the weary Tran siblings, particularly Ly, who is unremittingly expected to excel in school while hanging by a thread economically and putting in long, tedious hours in the family nail salon, all the while being denied for decades the eyeglasses she desperately needs for her nearsightedness, since her parents scoff that she is a faker, sucked in solely by an acquired sense of American acquisitiveness to want approval by sporting "cool" spectacles. (Profoundly myopic myself, this resonated with me more than any other of her unfairly unmitigated crosses to bear.) The author is generous with her inclusion of the many "points of light" along the way that eventually helped her find much-deserved success in life and love, and her lifelong battle with depression is also movingly portrayed. In the course of her story, Ly's familial bonds go from clinging, to frayed, to tenderly appraised and appreciated, and her coming of age, from seed to glorious flower, is a joy to behold. A life worth living, and definitely worth sharing with the world. A+++

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Lynne

    This felt like a very timely book, with the Asian American killing rampage that happened this week. This chronicles the life of a young woman, Ly, whose family immigrates from Vietnam to NYC. Ly's father was a POW for 10 years; he has PTSD and takes it out on his family (wife and 4 kids) sometimes. They struggle far below the poverty line, living in a roach-infested apartment and having to run a bow-tie sweatshop out of their own apartment for years, and still going hungry. Ly's parents' 'big br This felt like a very timely book, with the Asian American killing rampage that happened this week. This chronicles the life of a young woman, Ly, whose family immigrates from Vietnam to NYC. Ly's father was a POW for 10 years; he has PTSD and takes it out on his family (wife and 4 kids) sometimes. They struggle far below the poverty line, living in a roach-infested apartment and having to run a bow-tie sweatshop out of their own apartment for years, and still going hungry. Ly's parents' 'big break' (if you can call it that) comes when they buy a tiny nail salon in a bad neighborhood with $7 manicures and customers who don't pay half the time. I really enjoyed this book although it did feel slow a couple times. It was heartbreaking to see this family struggle and strive to assimilate into the American culture. Obstacles abound for this author and her family, but they continued to show resilience and persistence. The book focuses largely on Ly's academic journey. She is extremely smart but her father thinks eyeglasses are a government conspiracy and won't let her get any. She works very hard at school but with having to work in her parents nail salon every night and not being able to see, she struggles greatly. There's also a lot about her mental health in this book; she battles depression and OCD to the extent that she can't function at times. It's pretty remarkable this author ended up graduating from an Ivy League college and writing this book at a young age. I would recommend this book. An easy read with short chapters. It reminds me of other memoirs of people who grew up in horrific situations yet rise above and become success stories. This book gets released in June of this year.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    In stunning, mesmerizing prose, the author narrates her incredible story of resilience, determination, and grit as the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants in America. **spoilers below** The author recounts the many challenges she faced as she came of age in NYC—from having to work from the age of three assembling ties and cummerbunds in her family’s small, railroad apartment to dealing with the constant and lasting impact of her POW father’s PTSD. In particular, her father’s mistrust of the governm In stunning, mesmerizing prose, the author narrates her incredible story of resilience, determination, and grit as the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants in America. **spoilers below** The author recounts the many challenges she faced as she came of age in NYC—from having to work from the age of three assembling ties and cummerbunds in her family’s small, railroad apartment to dealing with the constant and lasting impact of her POW father’s PTSD. In particular, her father’s mistrust of the government led him to disallow Ly from getting glasses when her eyesight started to diminish, as he believed corrective lenses were a government conspiracy. Over the course of the memoir, as Ly’s eyesight worsens, this has a devastating impact on her educational trajectory, causing her to struggle in school despite being academically gifted. Even after Ly graduates from high school and secretly gets contact lenses, so much damage has been done to her self-confidence that she continues to struggle, and ultimately drops out of college. Fortunately, the story does not end there. I was moved to tears when Ly gets her acceptance letter to Columbia University, going from a college dropout to an Ivy League student. But it wasn’t just big moments like this that made Ly’s memoir so special. It was all the small moments. The images of Ly and her family seeing snow for the first time. Ly lying in bed at night trying to build domes in her head to keep everyone she loves safe. Ly’s family laughing together as they take in a video of a chimp passing out from its own smell (one of the very first viral videos). It’s already been a few weeks since I read this beautiful memoir, and I’m still thinking about it. I am certain it will stick with me for years to come.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ferne Upson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 4.4 but not a 5. This is Ly Tran's coming of age story about how she, her parents and 3 brothers immigrated from Vietnam to Queens NY in 1993. What an incredible journey. What they all accomplished within the pages of the book. How they survived making cumberbunds in their cockroach infested apartment with very little furniture in their new homeland. I am feeling humbled and blessed after reading their story. The father suffered from PTSD and was very hard to live with most of the book with percus 4.4 but not a 5. This is Ly Tran's coming of age story about how she, her parents and 3 brothers immigrated from Vietnam to Queens NY in 1993. What an incredible journey. What they all accomplished within the pages of the book. How they survived making cumberbunds in their cockroach infested apartment with very little furniture in their new homeland. I am feeling humbled and blessed after reading their story. The father suffered from PTSD and was very hard to live with most of the book with percussions for everyone. Much was expected of Ly as the only daughter of the family. Her brothers seemed to have a much easier life but they all worked very hard. I found it interesting to learn about their culture and religion. I will never look at nail salons in the same way. How people treated them and how much work it is to run the salon successfully. Glad I am not about to get Lasik surgery done. It was portrayed in great detail. It was a nice touch her parents helped her pay for it after the father denied she even needed glassess. I think that went a long way to healing the relationship between parent and child. The second half of the book dragged a bit. There were too many chapters on depression. I acknowledge it had a huge impact on her life, but too much information. She spent much of her life feeling like a failure. I was glad when she found Joseph and Ethan. They seemed to put her life on a better trajectory. I have to assume they are still together. She also had other angels in her life to help her get her degree from Columbia. Let's hope there is a volume II. Thank you Netgalley for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    This is an excellent autobiography/memoir. It held my interest from beginning to end. I found myself continuing to read after I planned to stop and wanting to finish "just one more chapter" before going to bed. That does not happen very often. I really enjoyed the author's writing style. She is entertaining and relatable. I would definitely read her work again. This is the story of a young woman who grew up in NYC in a Vietnamese immigrant family. I sympathized with every person in this story. W This is an excellent autobiography/memoir. It held my interest from beginning to end. I found myself continuing to read after I planned to stop and wanting to finish "just one more chapter" before going to bed. That does not happen very often. I really enjoyed the author's writing style. She is entertaining and relatable. I would definitely read her work again. This is the story of a young woman who grew up in NYC in a Vietnamese immigrant family. I sympathized with every person in this story. While the children had an impoverished youth, they worked hard and elevated themselves. The older brothers helped the author, their little sister, to get through college when she had difficulties. I am left wondering why they did not help their parents. I felt especially sorry for the parents. They seemed unlikely to rise above their circumstances no matter how hard they worked or how much they sacrificed. However, it seems the father began to heal, at least to some extent, by end of the timeline. The author apparently wrote/published this memoir at least a few years after the conclusion of the events she described in her story. I would have liked to know more about how her parents are doing. I hope they are at least in a more comfortable living situation. Every spoiled, entitled "first world" young person should read this book. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    lisa

    Although I didn't think this book was that interesting, I also couldn't put it down. Ly Tran writes well about her life as an immigrant from Vietnam, growing up in New York City with her parents and her brothers. Her father suffers from PTSD due to his years in reeducation prison, but is determined to make a new life for his family in a strange land. Ly and her brothers are extremely smart and hardworking, and use every opportunity to get their education and earn better jobs than sewing ties and Although I didn't think this book was that interesting, I also couldn't put it down. Ly Tran writes well about her life as an immigrant from Vietnam, growing up in New York City with her parents and her brothers. Her father suffers from PTSD due to his years in reeducation prison, but is determined to make a new life for his family in a strange land. Ly and her brothers are extremely smart and hardworking, and use every opportunity to get their education and earn better jobs than sewing ties and cummerbunds and painting nails at cheap salons. However, Ly struggles with her vision, and depression, and has trouble living up to the expectations of her family. In terms of books written about immigrants, this one fell in the middle. A lot of the stories were very anecdotal, and each one felt like a small separate essay, so I had trouble figuring out exactly who Ly's parents were, and exactly how her teachers and therapists let her sink, and rise according to strange whims. (I was also horrified at the way her psychiatrist treated her, and I couldn't believe it was something everyone just brushed off.) Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang and Almost American Girl by Robin Ha were better biographies of young people caught between their Asian cultures, and their new American lives. This book was fine, but it didn't have a spirit or a fire to it. The story told the facts, which were interesting, but there was nothing to make me remember this story, as important as it is.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Beth Anne

    I received a free review copy from the publisher. This was an incredible memoir. I don’t know that I have words to adequately describe this book because the story is so different from my own. And that is what I love about books like this. I get to experience in a very small way, a little of what someone else has loved for their entire life. Ly Tran’s family immigrated to the US from Vietnam in 1993. They knew little to no English, lived in poverty (below the poverty line), worked and scraped to ge I received a free review copy from the publisher. This was an incredible memoir. I don’t know that I have words to adequately describe this book because the story is so different from my own. And that is what I love about books like this. I get to experience in a very small way, a little of what someone else has loved for their entire life. Ly Tran’s family immigrated to the US from Vietnam in 1993. They knew little to no English, lived in poverty (below the poverty line), worked and scraped to get by (barely so at times)...so many examples of how government systems failed them, of how hard work does not equal success, and of how our family and birth circumstances account for so much of what happens in our lives. I read this slowly, just a few chapters most days, because it was heavy and hard at times. I skimmed a few paragraphs that were really hard to read — a luxury I have, yet she (and many others) lived. Her story also has a happy ending (or middle, I suppose, as she is still quite young). Not all stories do. My heart broke for her so many times, and I was pulling hard for her success. Her writing was compelling and evocative, personal and real.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    "House of Sticks" by Ly Tran is a memoir of the author's life as Vietnamese immigrant to New York City who must navigate the conflict of wanting to form her own life and independence and her parents' fervent desire to keep her close to home, both physically and emotionally. Ly constantly worries and feels extreme guilt that her will to succeed in school, maintain her health, and establish her own path will never be what her parents expect or want from her. She feels this through both her parents "House of Sticks" by Ly Tran is a memoir of the author's life as Vietnamese immigrant to New York City who must navigate the conflict of wanting to form her own life and independence and her parents' fervent desire to keep her close to home, both physically and emotionally. Ly constantly worries and feels extreme guilt that her will to succeed in school, maintain her health, and establish her own path will never be what her parents expect or want from her. She feels this through both her parents's actions and the general responsibilities of being a child of immigrant parents who have a hard time footing their footing in New York. For me, one of the biggest representations of this struggle is Tran's eyesight and her father's refusal to get her glasses, even when social services visits her house. Tran can't see and struggles in school as a result thereof, but she also resists using other possible avenues of obtaining glasses on her own and facing her father's predictable wrath. This book also dives into Tran's worsening depression and the subsequent academic and social consequences, which she hides from her family, This book was so good that I read it all in a day.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I really enjoyed this book. I think I read it in a day or possibly just barely beyond a day. Something about the memoir is very gripping. Maybe part of the appeal is the lovely photos including the cover shot. Also, when Mrs. Liu's letter is summarized in the book, my memory is that she used the word heart in regards to Ly's writing but when I re-read the section, she uses passion and the ability to see humanity in characters. All these words embody what I think Ly conveys to readers both in pic I really enjoyed this book. I think I read it in a day or possibly just barely beyond a day. Something about the memoir is very gripping. Maybe part of the appeal is the lovely photos including the cover shot. Also, when Mrs. Liu's letter is summarized in the book, my memory is that she used the word heart in regards to Ly's writing but when I re-read the section, she uses passion and the ability to see humanity in characters. All these words embody what I think Ly conveys to readers both in pictures and words. No memoir I've read so far surfaces a string of happy memories and Ly's certainly doesn't either but it does largely, consistently convey hope except in periods of her deepest struggles. I feel we got to know her family especially her Mother and Ba, as well as her three brothers: Thinh, Phu and Long. I've since Googled more about the author and her writing and I remain a fan. Recommend this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amy M.

    This book will be published on June 1 and all I can say is Riveting. I’m grateful that it was through Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, Haitrieu Nguyen and Phuc Tran that Ly Ky Tran came into my life! Ly Tran’s memoir, House of Sticks, doesn’t leave any leaf or stone unturned. How brave to share with the world her incredible refugee experience. There were moments I shed tears and wanted to hug the author and there were small triumphs that I collected in my hope chest, storing them for later like a squirrel st This book will be published on June 1 and all I can say is Riveting. I’m grateful that it was through Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, Haitrieu Nguyen and Phuc Tran that Ly Ky Tran came into my life! Ly Tran’s memoir, House of Sticks, doesn’t leave any leaf or stone unturned. How brave to share with the world her incredible refugee experience. There were moments I shed tears and wanted to hug the author and there were small triumphs that I collected in my hope chest, storing them for later like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter, anxious to open it so I can celebrate it all with one big Yippee! So raw, so honest, so unbelievably breathtaking. It took me 2.5 months to read it because life gets busy but I stole every few minutes I could to read this book, eager to walk alongside Ly and “be” there with her, sharing her pain and rooting her on. Thank you for having the courage, dearest friend and sister! Bravo and cheers to you!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Donna Boyd

    Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my review. House of Sticks by Ly Tran is a memoir that will warm your heart while breaking it at the same time. It is the story of Ly and her family who came to Queens, New York from Vietnam in the early 1990s. It is an amazing story of determination and resilience and of big moments like Ly getting into an Ivy League college and also of small moments, like Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my review. House of Sticks by Ly Tran is a memoir that will warm your heart while breaking it at the same time. It is the story of Ly and her family who came to Queens, New York from Vietnam in the early 1990s. It is an amazing story of determination and resilience and of big moments like Ly getting into an Ivy League college and also of small moments, like the family seeing snow for the first time. It is a compelling look into the poverty and the racism that immigrant families face when they come to this country and what they have to give up to overcome these things. Ultimately it is Ly's story of finding her own place in the world. This book will remain with you long after you turn the final page. I highly recommend it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charles Bellavia

    This is an Advanced Readers Copy received through the Goodreads giveaway. This is a memoir in which Ly Tran brings home the immigrant story. Throughout "House of Sticks", the story of my Sicilian immigrant grandparents resonated. Although the immigrants of over hundred years ago are now mainstream American citizens, today we witness the plight of Asian immigrants. Ly Tran makes the conscious decision not to let her situation hold her back the way she's previously let poverty, ignorance and fear h This is an Advanced Readers Copy received through the Goodreads giveaway. This is a memoir in which Ly Tran brings home the immigrant story. Throughout "House of Sticks", the story of my Sicilian immigrant grandparents resonated. Although the immigrants of over hundred years ago are now mainstream American citizens, today we witness the plight of Asian immigrants. Ly Tran makes the conscious decision not to let her situation hold her back the way she's previously let poverty, ignorance and fear hold her back. The one area of difficulty for me was following her timeline. I wish years had been used more often. As an example at one point I thought Ly was 21 or 22 when later I read she was still 19. Compliments to a young writer who will be followed for many years. Let us not forget we were all immigrants at one time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    4.5 stars This compelling and honest memoir was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Ly and her family emigrated from Vietnam to the United States in the early 1990s. Once here, they lived well below the poverty line and struggled and scratched out a life. Ly’s father was imprisoned in a ‘re-education’ camp, in Vietnam for over ten years and those emotional scars and ptsd resonated through their family life. The biggest fall out was her father’s refusal for believing that Ly needed glasses from t 4.5 stars This compelling and honest memoir was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Ly and her family emigrated from Vietnam to the United States in the early 1990s. Once here, they lived well below the poverty line and struggled and scratched out a life. Ly’s father was imprisoned in a ‘re-education’ camp, in Vietnam for over ten years and those emotional scars and ptsd resonated through their family life. The biggest fall out was her father’s refusal for believing that Ly needed glasses from the third grade on. Reading about Ly’s deteriorating eye sight even she excelled at school, was really stressful as well as her navigation of school as she got older. There is a fair amount of introspection as Ly tries to understand her parents and about mental health issues. She’s generous and not quite forgiving, but understanding that their past, effects her future. I received an arc from the publisher but all opinions are my own.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marika

    Author Ly Tran recounts her journey from a turbulent life in Vietnam, to living in a cockroach infested apartment in Queens, NY. In lyrical language that belies her reality, Tran writes about the pressure that her parents put on her; the pressure to succeed, the pressure to embrace Buddhism and the pressure to believe that she doesn't need the eyeglasses that she so clearly needs. (her father believes that poor vision and the need for glasses is part of a government plot) The burden that Ly carri Author Ly Tran recounts her journey from a turbulent life in Vietnam, to living in a cockroach infested apartment in Queens, NY. In lyrical language that belies her reality, Tran writes about the pressure that her parents put on her; the pressure to succeed, the pressure to embrace Buddhism and the pressure to believe that she doesn't need the eyeglasses that she so clearly needs. (her father believes that poor vision and the need for glasses is part of a government plot) The burden that Ly carries becomes too much when she is enrolled in college and she bends, but doesn't break. A wonderfully written coming of age memoir by author Ly Tran. * I read an advance copy and was not compensated

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I loved this book and ended up reading it in one sitting because I simply couldn't put it done. Though I loved the book, some parts--maybe most parts--of this book are horrifyingly sad. The poverty, the ignorance, the struggles with mental health are all themes of this book. Yet, overall it is a story of immigrants prevailing and succeeding in many ways. This book also sheds light on the Chinese Vietnamese culture and is an important read for anyone who works with immigrant children of any cultur I loved this book and ended up reading it in one sitting because I simply couldn't put it done. Though I loved the book, some parts--maybe most parts--of this book are horrifyingly sad. The poverty, the ignorance, the struggles with mental health are all themes of this book. Yet, overall it is a story of immigrants prevailing and succeeding in many ways. This book also sheds light on the Chinese Vietnamese culture and is an important read for anyone who works with immigrant children of any culture. Seeing how the children of immigrants are caught between their parents and their new world is eye-opening. I hope we will read more from Ly Tran. Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    I received this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Ly Tran gives us a very detailed view of her experiences as the only daughter and youngest child in a refugee Vietnamese family. The hardships that this family endured are hard to imagine and reminded me how incredibly hardworking these families are as they strive to make it in the US with little support from anyone. It seems like there is a real breakdown in a system that encourages families to come but then doesn't help them to succeed. Ly Tran her I received this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Ly Tran gives us a very detailed view of her experiences as the only daughter and youngest child in a refugee Vietnamese family. The hardships that this family endured are hard to imagine and reminded me how incredibly hardworking these families are as they strive to make it in the US with little support from anyone. It seems like there is a real breakdown in a system that encourages families to come but then doesn't help them to succeed. Ly Tran herself seems to have paid the price of this lack of support. Thankfully, the kindness of a few key people in her life helped her to get on a sustainable path toward healing and happiness. Ms. Tran shows her strong writing talents in this memoir.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    House Of Sticks is a mesmerizing memoir. Tran is very honest and wrote a thorough reflation of most of her life. She and her family moved from Vietnam to the US in the early 1990s. She recounts the struggles of her family and her own issues. I was appalled that she was basically blind for over a decade because her parents refused to believe she needed glasses. She finally gets LASIK surgery and I cringed at her description of the procedure. I have worn contacts for over 35 years and wouldn’t tru House Of Sticks is a mesmerizing memoir. Tran is very honest and wrote a thorough reflation of most of her life. She and her family moved from Vietnam to the US in the early 1990s. She recounts the struggles of her family and her own issues. I was appalled that she was basically blind for over a decade because her parents refused to believe she needed glasses. She finally gets LASIK surgery and I cringed at her description of the procedure. I have worn contacts for over 35 years and wouldn’t trust anyone to laser my eyeballs. Tran floundered when she got to college but persevered. She worked through a lot of issues and is a testament to sticking it out and accomplishing her goals. Thanks to Scribner, Edelweiss, and NetGalley for the early read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lynda

    As the first book that she has written, Ly Tran has a very natural and captivating writing style. This memoir captures scenes from her childhood as well as her journey into adulthood. While reading, I definitely connected to this author in terms of her own thought process and personality. That feeling of being the outsider/foreigner is well expressed in this book. I also appreciated the way she talked about her parents. Even though they had many faults and shortcomings, Tran still regards them wi As the first book that she has written, Ly Tran has a very natural and captivating writing style. This memoir captures scenes from her childhood as well as her journey into adulthood. While reading, I definitely connected to this author in terms of her own thought process and personality. That feeling of being the outsider/foreigner is well expressed in this book. I also appreciated the way she talked about her parents. Even though they had many faults and shortcomings, Tran still regards them with respect while acknowledging they are only human. Coming from a conservative background as well, I related to Tran's conflict and inner turmoil. Again, a very captivating read. I sincerely hope that I can read more of her in the future!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sylvia

    I loved this book!! It was so engaging and heartbreaking. So well-written. Even though the story is unique, it's a book that we can all relate to at one point or another. It's a story that's so inspiring in the sense that it's about someone who despite having gone through a tremendous amount of pain and hardship, in the end, she was able to create a life that is powerful, inspirational, and courageous. An example that we can take ourselves no matter where we are in life to get to where we want t I loved this book!! It was so engaging and heartbreaking. So well-written. Even though the story is unique, it's a book that we can all relate to at one point or another. It's a story that's so inspiring in the sense that it's about someone who despite having gone through a tremendous amount of pain and hardship, in the end, she was able to create a life that is powerful, inspirational, and courageous. An example that we can take ourselves no matter where we are in life to get to where we want to be. Highly recommended!! I received an ARC from the author and publisher but all opinions are my own.**

  26. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Ms. Tran’s debut book is a beautifully-written memoir that explores the challenges facing immigrants from countries with vastly different cultures from the US and finding one’s place in the American salad bowl. Ms. Tran was a toddler when she accompanied her family—parents and three older brothers—to the United States from Vietnam in 1993. Her father had been drafted into the South Vietnamese army at the age of 19 at the height of the Vietnam War. After the war, he, like many other South Vietnam Ms. Tran’s debut book is a beautifully-written memoir that explores the challenges facing immigrants from countries with vastly different cultures from the US and finding one’s place in the American salad bowl. Ms. Tran was a toddler when she accompanied her family—parents and three older brothers—to the United States from Vietnam in 1993. Her father had been drafted into the South Vietnamese army at the age of 19 at the height of the Vietnam War. After the war, he, like many other South Vietnamese men, was imprisoned in a communist re-education camp. He eventually was released after seven years (and a failed escape attempt), before he is married to a woman in the village across the river, although he is still harassed by the NVA. Eventually, they are able to leave via a program by the US government, and settle in Ridgewood, Queens. Ms. Tran writes of her courageous trials clearly and with flashes of humor as she tries to blaze her own trail in her adopted country. Impressive debut. I am grateful for winning an ARC of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hana

    This book is really something! So delightfully written and full of emotions that you can sense in every single line. Many times I felt the urge to hug the author, to help her overcome the struggles in her life, I smiled with her when she made some achievements and I also cried. It doesn't happen to me very often when reading a book. But this one is so touching that you wonder how these things could happen only to one person. Definitely worth a read and hope there will be more books from Ly Tran! This book is really something! So delightfully written and full of emotions that you can sense in every single line. Many times I felt the urge to hug the author, to help her overcome the struggles in her life, I smiled with her when she made some achievements and I also cried. It doesn't happen to me very often when reading a book. But this one is so touching that you wonder how these things could happen only to one person. Definitely worth a read and hope there will be more books from Ly Tran!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sylvia

    3.5. I have mixed feelings about this memoir. I thought the first half was very moving and I felt Ly’s pain in her difficult upbringing. The descriptions of her mother’s nail salon were intense and pretty unforgettable. I had trouble with the book after Ly goes to Hunter College and her depression and difficulties were overpowering.I felt the book left lots of things unexplained and didn’t seem as strong in the second half.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Ly Tran came from Vietnam with her parents and brothers when she was a toddler. She works as a child making cummerbunds in the family’s living room and then paints nails at her mother’s salon. Who is Ly Tran outside of her family’s expectations? How will she find her place in America and honor her heritage? Ly Tran is a courageous woman and a beautiful writer.

  30. 5 out of 5

    J. Harding

    This is a good memoir about a Vietnamese family's immigration into the US in the early 90s; I found some of the more memorable parts were about the author's Ly's father who was drafted into the South Vietnamese army at the age of 16 and was later, after South Vietnam fell, was to spend nearly a decade in a "re-education camp". Wow, he could probably write a book himself. Good read. This is a good memoir about a Vietnamese family's immigration into the US in the early 90s; I found some of the more memorable parts were about the author's Ly's father who was drafted into the South Vietnamese army at the age of 16 and was later, after South Vietnam fell, was to spend nearly a decade in a "re-education camp". Wow, he could probably write a book himself. Good read.

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