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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

    Long Tran

    Hi everyone, this is Ly’s brother here. This was worth ten stars, but since I’m mad cheap, I suppose 5 will do! With beautiful prose and sublime descriptions of the world around her, this story embodies the transformation of a caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. With the slow unfolding of its wings, the memoir is a powerful reminder that it is always darkest before dawn and that there is no triumph without struggle. Thank you for enshrining some of our favorite childhood memories into this wor Hi everyone, this is Ly’s brother here. This was worth ten stars, but since I’m mad cheap, I suppose 5 will do! With beautiful prose and sublime descriptions of the world around her, this story embodies the transformation of a caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. With the slow unfolding of its wings, the memoir is a powerful reminder that it is always darkest before dawn and that there is no triumph without struggle. Thank you for enshrining some of our favorite childhood memories into this work of art. Although, you were probably too young to remember, I actually got caught with those toy cars in the waistline of my pants. Back then I would’ve done anything for a toy. I’m the first brother here, not surprised. Thinh and Phu, where you at?

  2. 5 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Phu K.

    Hello Everyone, I'm Phu K. Tran and I am the second eldest in Ly's family. This memoir was beautifully written by my sister, whom we are all very proud of and I highly recommend this book to anyone who's interested in learning more about our story. For me, reading this memoir brings out so many raw emotions...reminiscing the past, honoring the present, and safeguarding the future. Through Ly's powerful words and literary mind, she was able to tell our family's history in such a magnificent way t Hello Everyone, I'm Phu K. Tran and I am the second eldest in Ly's family. This memoir was beautifully written by my sister, whom we are all very proud of and I highly recommend this book to anyone who's interested in learning more about our story. For me, reading this memoir brings out so many raw emotions...reminiscing the past, honoring the present, and safeguarding the future. Through Ly's powerful words and literary mind, she was able to tell our family's history in such a magnificent way that I was moved to tears with every single chapter. To me, reliving these memories is a blessing. Some may be painful, some may be pleasant and warm, and some may fill me with anger with the turns of events. Most importantly, it's given me a great sense of appreciation for my family. My parents and siblings are the pillars of my life...it is through them that shape who I am today and I will always cherish that. This is a great reminder of all the trials and tribulations that, we as a family, have gone through together. Thank you mom & dad... Thank you Thinh, Long, & Ly... This memoir provides me with a perspective through the lens of my sister and I can't tell everyone how much I appreciate her for putting in these years of efforts. I hope that everyone will enjoy reading this book and share it amongst your friends and family. Thank you.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diane Turpin

    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 wel 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. 🐢 I received a gifted copy of this book from Scribner in exchange for my honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Krutika Puranik

    • r e c o m m e n d a t i o n • When you read someone's memoir it exposes a side of them that nobody else knows. There's a lot of vulnerability attached to their stories because you get to read not only about their good days but also the days when they hit rock bottom. Before I read House of Sticks, I was aware of immigrant stories but not one in such detail. When Ly Tran's family moved to the US from Vietnam back in 1993, they came with nothing. They barely had money to scrape through each day l • r e c o m m e n d a t i o n • When you read someone's memoir it exposes a side of them that nobody else knows. There's a lot of vulnerability attached to their stories because you get to read not only about their good days but also the days when they hit rock bottom. Before I read House of Sticks, I was aware of immigrant stories but not one in such detail. When Ly Tran's family moved to the US from Vietnam back in 1993, they came with nothing. They barely had money to scrape through each day let alone to buy warm clothes to keep them from freezing. We are often told that hardwork is rewarding but it's not always the case because sometimes no matter how much blood and sweat you shed, things don't improve much. You remain where you are. House of Sticks is not Ly's story alone but is an all encompassing moving story of her family. Ly's father was a POW before arriving in the US and it doesn't take long for us to know that he's not in the right state of mind. With a fury that overpowers everything else and acute paranoia towards the government, he refuses to give his children certain basic needs. When her mother takes up a job in a nail salon, she firsthand witnesses racism and hate towards her family. Her brothers leave the nest one after the other with relief and Ly struggles with abandonment issues. There are so many instances when I felt my heat tear because she was denied care, even when her eyesight got so bad that she couldn't see faces of those in front of her. Amidst all this, Ly still goes to college and builds a life but not before facing severe mental health issues. This memoir has a lot of trauma packed into it along with poverty and depression. But Ly also receives support from her friends and teachers most of them taking the shape of a guardian angel. When the book ends, it's not with a heavy heart but one filled with hope and happiness. And this is what makes House on Sticks a brilliant read. Knowing Ly's life has opened up a new way in which I can now view at immigrants. I send them my love. Rating : 4.8/5.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hilary (Melted Books)

    Beautiful and emotionally vivid. I was mesmerized by this memoir. Not only is Ly Tran's writing captivating, but her story is full of such vulnerability and honesty that I couldn't help but become instantly absorbed in her book. I recommend this if you are interested in the intersections between financial hardship, mental health, and the immigrant experience in America. Content warnings included in spoiler section. (view spoiler)[Content warnings for depression, sexual assault, post-traumatic str Beautiful and emotionally vivid. I was mesmerized by this memoir. Not only is Ly Tran's writing captivating, but her story is full of such vulnerability and honesty that I couldn't help but become instantly absorbed in her book. I recommend this if you are interested in the intersections between financial hardship, mental health, and the immigrant experience in America. Content warnings included in spoiler section. (view spoiler)[Content warnings for depression, sexual assault, post-traumatic stress disorder, (mention of) verbal and domestic abuse, and description of a surgical procedure. (hide spoiler)] ____ Thank you, Scribner, for sending me a copy for review.

  8. 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.

  9. 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+++

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐖𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐳𝐳𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝟏𝟗𝟗𝟑, 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐝𝐝𝐢𝐞𝐬, 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐨 𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐬, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐮𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐅𝐞𝐛𝐫𝐮𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐄𝐦𝐩𝐢𝐫𝐞 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐞. Ly Tran has written an incredibly moving memoir about her family’s move from war-torn Vietnam to a neighborhood in Queens, New York. The sickness from turbulence and three weeks of travel they endured was a precursor to the culture shock of their new lives in America. At three years old, Ly Tran was “vaguely conscious of the worl via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐖𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐳𝐳𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝟏𝟗𝟗𝟑, 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐝𝐝𝐢𝐞𝐬, 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐨 𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐬, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐮𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐅𝐞𝐛𝐫𝐮𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐄𝐦𝐩𝐢𝐫𝐞 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐞. Ly Tran has written an incredibly moving memoir about her family’s move from war-torn Vietnam to a neighborhood in Queens, New York. The sickness from turbulence and three weeks of travel they endured was a precursor to the culture shock of their new lives in America. At three years old, Ly Tran was “vaguely conscious of the world around me”. As the youngest of four children, her memories of the journey and her homeland are fragmented, gaps filled in by her parents and older siblings alongside flashes of feelings. For her, adjusting to their new reality is easier, the past soon fading. In time, she is torn between two cultures, two worlds. Her family lived along the Mekong river, one can imagine the alien feeling, the rupture of leaving nature and all it’s glorious colors, rhythms for the hustle and bustle of a gritty, gray, American city. Before they are even settled, the family is in debt to their sponsor. With a language barrier alone, despite being a former lieutenant in the South Vietnamese army (and a POW for a decade), jobs that can support their family of six aren’t easy to attain. To ‘make ends meet’, Ly and her siblings help their parents with sewing, forming their own little production line on the living room floor of their two-bedroom railroad apartment. Unlike other American children, there isn’t time for play, delicious candy and tv binging. In the Buddhist tradition, one honors parents and family above all else, but as the years pass and Ly struggles at school, honoring thy father isn’t such an easy faith to follow. Grateful for their place in this new world, though awake to harsh realities, Ly’s parents cling to their faith and work ethics. They know they will be okay, despite the mountains of obstacles before them. Life tests them, people deceive, take advantage, threaten. Carrying fear in his heart from the horrors he left behind, Ly’s father doesn’t want to make waves, stand out. The children come up with American names for each other, proudly, but is that enough to make roots in this new land? Their father’s fears manifest in strange behaviors and irrational decisions exacerbating Ly’s school struggles. Worse, her parents demands that, like her brothers before her, she leave behind a legacy of academic excellence make her feel anxious. It is not so easy when socially awkward, and struggling with vision issues! When she speaks her truth, that she cannot see well enough in school to learn math, her father’s reaction isn’t the fatherly wisdom she was hoping for. Maybe she really is just stupid, maybe glasses are a government conspiracy, but his truth clashes with her own reality. Despite his rants, she cannot see, it’s a stubborn fact one cannot ignore and here she is meant to swallow her truth. This is just one of many impenetrable walls she will face within her family. Nothing beats elevating one’s place in life, no matter the hours of toil it takes. Why else did her parents bring their children to this country, if not to earn a full education, the only ladder to that high place in life? But in this land of dreams, for girls, sometimes there are violations. When one learns to endure, sometimes they learn to submit when they should fight. Watching her mother humiliated when working as a manicurist at a Brooklyn salon puts a bitter seed in Ly’s soul. Ly often works beside her, and yet this becomes just another place her mother refuses to stand up for herself, just like in the family home when facing Ly’s irrational father. Love and resentment, her father’s overbearing will makes home hell. Things get worse when a helpful teacher gets involved, threatening their House of Sticks. Ly’s coming of age is an intimate look at trying to fit in while trapped between two cultures. Her guilt for feeling ashamed and perplexed by her odd father. Feeling abandoned by her larger than life brothers, her mother’s acceptance of the ugly world both infuriating and confusing. Confusing because she longs to protect her. Wanting to just be a normal American girl, not feeling like a failure who can’t live up to her father’s expectations. It is an intimate window into loyalty, faith, family and the inheritance the brutality of war leaves for the next generation. It takes years for Ly to come to terms with her father’s fragility, to understand why her mother more often than not sides with her husband, despite the cost. Becoming American doesn’t erase her father’s years of suffering, imprisonment, labor, indoctrination while forced into a “re-education camp”. From a place of freedom, how can Ly fully comprehend everything her mother and father had been through, had given up to provide their children with a better future? In turn, how can they understand the weight their daughter carries in her heart searching for a place for herself, trying to feel like an American with the traditions of the culture they left behind shadowing her every move? A place where she is a dutiful daughter but also a free person, able to use her voice, speak her truth and create a future that feels right for her? There are funny moments and harsh ones. It is a heavy duty, one’s heritage. Can she honor the past, and yet build her own future, free of the hooks of familial expectations? An emotional journey and a beautiful memoir. Add it to your summer reading list! Publication Date: June 1, 2021 Scribner

  11. 5 out of 5

    Uma Dwivedi

    contributed some edits to this book back when i was an intern at scribner, so I'm excited to see it out in the world! contributed some edits to this book back when i was an intern at scribner, so I'm excited to see it out in the world!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    House of Sticks By Ly Tran House of Sticks is a timely and deeply moving memoir that resonated with me. This is an immigrant story that explores filial bonds, poverty, mental health, fitting in, in a heartbreaking and hopeful coming-of-age story. Ly Tran's story on how her family started their life in Queens, NY from a small town in Vietnam, with a father who was a lieutenant and a POW, while also working alongside her mother as a manicurist at a nail salon in Brownsville, Brooklyn was so impactfu House of Sticks By Ly Tran House of Sticks is a timely and deeply moving memoir that resonated with me. This is an immigrant story that explores filial bonds, poverty, mental health, fitting in, in a heartbreaking and hopeful coming-of-age story. Ly Tran's story on how her family started their life in Queens, NY from a small town in Vietnam, with a father who was a lieutenant and a POW, while also working alongside her mother as a manicurist at a nail salon in Brownsville, Brooklyn was so impactful as a child of immigrants myself. Tran's writing was beautiful, honest, and raw full of emotions. We all need to read this. This memoir was such a magnificent read I highly recommend!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anita Kushwaha

    It takes courage to write a memoir like this one. The author writes beautifully and with candour about her experiences as a daughter of immigrants and her turbulent relationship with her parents. As a daughter of immigrants myself, so much of what she has written rings true for me as well, the cultural expectations in particular. Her honest journey toward forgiveness and healing is authentic and offers healing to those who have found themselves in similar circumstances. A wonderful book. I'm gla It takes courage to write a memoir like this one. The author writes beautifully and with candour about her experiences as a daughter of immigrants and her turbulent relationship with her parents. As a daughter of immigrants myself, so much of what she has written rings true for me as well, the cultural expectations in particular. Her honest journey toward forgiveness and healing is authentic and offers healing to those who have found themselves in similar circumstances. A wonderful book. I'm glad I read it.

  14. 5 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kari

    My Review of HOUSE OF STICKS By Ly Tran Gifted & Published by @Scribner On Sale: 6/1/2 - Link in Bio ****** Written by the youngest of four children, Ly Tran and her family fled the war torn Vietnam to the United States and lived in poverty living off the little they received from working for a sweatshop in their home and Government benefits. The ability that Tran draws with her pen, such a vivid picture of struggle, yet creates wonders of a family as they try to get by from what they are given. The c My Review of HOUSE OF STICKS By Ly Tran Gifted & Published by @Scribner On Sale: 6/1/2 - Link in Bio ****** Written by the youngest of four children, Ly Tran and her family fled the war torn Vietnam to the United States and lived in poverty living off the little they received from working for a sweatshop in their home and Government benefits. The ability that Tran draws with her pen, such a vivid picture of struggle, yet creates wonders of a family as they try to get by from what they are given. The constant fight to want to do better and to never give up or settle despite the hardship is a great message that resonates throughout the book. I couldn’t stop reading the stories from the kids going to school, the parents working to eventually opening their own nail salon. The beliefs from the parent’s culture on things that would quickly make the father irate was shocking. Yet the tender heart he would have for his family simply by bringing home donuts showed his other side. Through it all, the tough times and the happy times, you knew that this family was built upon a foundation of love and maybe just needed to learn a better way to show it.

  17. 5 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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chui

    What a great read! As an Asian American woman growing up in NYC at the same time as the author, I felt a deep connection to her story. It was refreshing and incredibly meaningful to read a story that I felt represented by. I felt she beautifully captured the experience of an outsider looking in and trying to find her place, all while juggling her vastly different home and public lives. By the end of her memoir I was left in awe of her story, inspired by her strength, and uplifted by the support What a great read! As an Asian American woman growing up in NYC at the same time as the author, I felt a deep connection to her story. It was refreshing and incredibly meaningful to read a story that I felt represented by. I felt she beautifully captured the experience of an outsider looking in and trying to find her place, all while juggling her vastly different home and public lives. By the end of her memoir I was left in awe of her story, inspired by her strength, and uplifted by the support she found from loved ones.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Ly Tran’s debut memoir HOUSE OF STICKS follows her story of immigrating to the United States from Vietnam in 1993. At age three, Ly made the trip with her parents and three brothers, where they lived below the poverty line in NYC. I had a very hard time putting down this book. The chapters are short and vivid, and the narrative propels the reader to learn more about the Tran family. Through many hardships, the reader will discover the growing bravery of the author, the grace she bestows to the b Ly Tran’s debut memoir HOUSE OF STICKS follows her story of immigrating to the United States from Vietnam in 1993. At age three, Ly made the trip with her parents and three brothers, where they lived below the poverty line in NYC. I had a very hard time putting down this book. The chapters are short and vivid, and the narrative propels the reader to learn more about the Tran family. Through many hardships, the reader will discover the growing bravery of the author, the grace she bestows to the broken and beautiful people in her story, and an unbelievable drive to move forward. The memoir covers many topics including education, different forms of abuse, generational trauma, feminism and more. Time and time again, the reader will see Ly offering grace to others in her book: through the fog of her own depression or despite her lack of resources, she reaches out and helps those around her with no judgment. I found her story to be very convicting. As a mother, it is my prayer that my daughters look at every individual as worthy — worthy of their attention, time, love, friendship. I’m grateful to Ly for finding her voice, even when she wasn’t believed or when she didn’t trust herself. I think her story will help many other immigrants feel heard and will help others to listen.

  20. 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.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Polly-Alida

    A heartbreaking, poignant, yet hopeful coming-of-age memoir. The author emigrated from Vietnam to the US, as a very young child, with her parents and 3 older brothers. They arrived in the early 1990s with little support, no extended family and lived in poverty in Queens. Turning their small, sparsely furnished apartment into a mini sweatshop, the family made a bit of money sewing ties and other accessories. Her father, having survived ten years in a Vietnamese prison camp, was a difficult prese A heartbreaking, poignant, yet hopeful coming-of-age memoir. The author emigrated from Vietnam to the US, as a very young child, with her parents and 3 older brothers. They arrived in the early 1990s with little support, no extended family and lived in poverty in Queens. Turning their small, sparsely furnished apartment into a mini sweatshop, the family made a bit of money sewing ties and other accessories. Her father, having survived ten years in a Vietnamese prison camp, was a difficult presence for everyone and had high expectations for his children to pursue education and make something of themselves. Her mother was a mix of obedient wife and determined business-women. In a very straightforward style, the author tells a story of complicated emotions and conflicts, of moving forward into a new culture, and a journey to adulthood that included very bleak periods of depression. I found it hard to put this book down, it’s a life I’ve never experienced and couldn’t have imagined. I so appreciate Ly for sharing her story with the world. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a review copy.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sam Schwarz

    House of Sticks, the upcoming June selection for New American Economy's Lit Club by NAE (https://www.newamericaneconomy.org/ar...), is a moving, vulnerable, and honest portrayal of a life so many of us could never imagine. Yet it is a life lived with more courage and conviction than I could ever imagine. This memoir, laced with exquisite and specific details, haunting and heartwarming anecdotes, and just the right amount of discomfort, made me want to call my parents. I laughed, I cried, and I f House of Sticks, the upcoming June selection for New American Economy's Lit Club by NAE (https://www.newamericaneconomy.org/ar...), is a moving, vulnerable, and honest portrayal of a life so many of us could never imagine. Yet it is a life lived with more courage and conviction than I could ever imagine. This memoir, laced with exquisite and specific details, haunting and heartwarming anecdotes, and just the right amount of discomfort, made me want to call my parents. I laughed, I cried, and I felt. What more could you want? I couldn't recommend this any more!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Greg Barbee

    I had been waiting for the release of HOUSE OF STICKS since Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai recommended it late last year. It was absolutely worth the wait. In her debut book, Ly Tran details her life as an immigrant in New York. She unflinchingly recounts her and her family’s experience. Most importantly, she taps into universal themes such as family, religion, mental health, assimilation, and education. I finished reading her book several days ago, but one passage has continued to resound with me. “Gần mự I had been waiting for the release of HOUSE OF STICKS since Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai recommended it late last year. It was absolutely worth the wait. In her debut book, Ly Tran details her life as an immigrant in New York. She unflinchingly recounts her and her family’s experience. Most importantly, she taps into universal themes such as family, religion, mental health, assimilation, and education. I finished reading her book several days ago, but one passage has continued to resound with me. “Gần mực thì đen, gần đèn thì sáng,” Ly’s mother reminded her and her siblings; “When you are near ink, you will be stained; when you are near the light, you will shine.” In her memoir, Ly asks, “But Mom, what if I’m the light?” Ly’s memoir leaves no doubt; her writing (created with ink, I can’t help but notice) shines. To paraphrase Portia from Merchant of Venice, “So shines a good book and person in a weary world.” In short, buy and read this book now. Ly will undoubtedly win much praise and many accolades for it, and all will be so well deserved.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Hoang Chi Truong

    Disclosure: Thanks to the generosity of the author and publisher for my ARC of House of Sticks. This is my genuine review as a reader and a Vietnamese American refugee in 1975. It would be naive to believe that being a Vietnamese refugee means that we'd understand our fellow refugees and their experiences. Far from it, and having read the House of Sticks, it opened my eyes. It allowed me to examine Ly Tran's family and her upbringing in Vietnam, how and when they fled communism, and the continuin Disclosure: Thanks to the generosity of the author and publisher for my ARC of House of Sticks. This is my genuine review as a reader and a Vietnamese American refugee in 1975. It would be naive to believe that being a Vietnamese refugee means that we'd understand our fellow refugees and their experiences. Far from it, and having read the House of Sticks, it opened my eyes. It allowed me to examine Ly Tran's family and her upbringing in Vietnam, how and when they fled communism, and the continuing hardship and challenges as she and her family navigated the puzzling and strange landscape of life in America. My heart breaks for young Ly as she pleaded with her father for prescription glasses and her many self-preservation tricks as her father repeated refusal. The author endured so much hardship that in childhood, coming of age, and early adulthood, one cannot help but root for her. As a fellow Vietnamese refugee, I understood and had many chuckles at her observations and interactions with the American culture and people. Although I understood something about her father, mother, siblings, I can mainly identify with the author and how as children, we'd continue to suppress our individual needs for the good of the family out of filial respect and duties as a child, even at high costs and detriments to ourselves. My heart also aches for her mother's role in the family dynamics, bridging the chasm of patriarchal structure, attempting to smooth the feuds as best she could. The stage of her life during the nail salon experience struck me the hardest. I've sometimes visited Vietnamese nail salons, but I must admit that I've always felt uncomfortable that they could easily have been my sisters, aunties, or mom. I've always wondered about their lives, stories, and families they were supporting through this job. There is no pretense, gloss, or political agenda in the House of Sticks. The memoir reads innocently in the early stages and more darkly as in early adulthood. But through it all, the author shared her stories as though she was confiding to a friend. To understand the refugee and immigrant experience, read the House of Sticks. Ly Tran's eloquent and honest storytelling will allow readers a glimpse into what it means to start from nothing and claw your way back into a new society. Now more than ever, with the increasing anti-Asian American sentiment, I implore readers to pick up this gem and walk in the shoes of those who want the same thing everyone wants: a life in peace to work, feed, clothe, and send their children to school without persecution or harassment.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sylvia-Marah

    I’ve had my eye on the Memoir House of Sticks by Ly Tran for months. I’ve been fascinated by Vietnam since I can remember, and I have always gravitated toward books about Vietnam. I am interested in Vietnamese culture, history and the experiences of Vietnamese refugees and immigrants. I was pleased to receive an advanced reader’s copy from Scribner and thrilled to read and review House of Sticks for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This Memoir hits the market on June 1st. If you w I’ve had my eye on the Memoir House of Sticks by Ly Tran for months. I’ve been fascinated by Vietnam since I can remember, and I have always gravitated toward books about Vietnam. I am interested in Vietnamese culture, history and the experiences of Vietnamese refugees and immigrants. I was pleased to receive an advanced reader’s copy from Scribner and thrilled to read and review House of Sticks for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This Memoir hits the market on June 1st. If you would like to pre-order a copy, there is a link to Bookshop at the end of this review. House of Sticks is the coming-of-age story of Ly Tran, a Vietnamese woman of Chinese ancestry who emigrated to America as a toddler in the early 90s with her parents and three older brothers. Ly’s father was a solider in the South Vietnamese army during the Vietnam-American war, and imprisoned for nearly a decade after the war, as many South Vietnamese soldiers were. The South Vietnamese soldiers, who fought alongside and assisted the American forces, were sent to “reeducation camps” where they lived as POWs, in squalid conditions and forced to clear minefields, and other dangerous work. After his release from prison, Ly’s father and mother, both Vietnamese nationals with Chinese ancestry, married in their early 30s. They had three sons and their youngest, a daughter, Ly, before emigrating to the U.S. through a humanitarian program. Ly grew up in Queens, New York, in a tiny two-bedroom apartment. This Memoir tells the story of an Asian American girl struggling with the poverty and clashing cultural expectations many young immigrants face. Ly’s situation is further complicated by her father’s violent outbursts and paranoia, symptoms of his PTSD. Ly is bright and an excellent student, but her grades slip when her eyesight fails. Her controlling and volatile father won’t allow her to get glasses, and she begins a slow descent into depression. Ly miraculously is accepted to Hunter’s Honors College, with a full-ride scholarship, but drops out after a brief stay in the psych ward due to her worsening depression. In this Memoir we see Ly struggling with mental illness, her identity as a daughter, an immigrant, and a woman. While she learns about the women’s liberation movement in school, and she resents they way her mother is treated by both her father and customers in their family’s nail salon, Ly still struggles to find her voice and to advocate for herself and to stand up for her mother. This Memoir was gripping, propulsive, and poignant. I read it in three sittings, unable to put the book down. I cried while reading this book, but this is not a sad story; this is a story of resilience and hope. House of Sticks by Ly Tran is the story of a family tied together by generational trauma and poverty, but it also shows us that healing, love and forgiveness are possible.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kimi Loughlin

    This was a tough memoir to read. It was good, don't get me wrong, but just emotionally troubling. Though it does talk a lot of Ly Tran's cultural identity and the struggle between her immigrant parents/status and her new American lifestyle, I think the strongest part of this memoir was about mental health. Ly Tran came to America with her parents and three older brothers when she was a toddler. After settling in Queens, the family began to take in sewing work to make ends meet and had to arrange This was a tough memoir to read. It was good, don't get me wrong, but just emotionally troubling. Though it does talk a lot of Ly Tran's cultural identity and the struggle between her immigrant parents/status and her new American lifestyle, I think the strongest part of this memoir was about mental health. Ly Tran came to America with her parents and three older brothers when she was a toddler. After settling in Queens, the family began to take in sewing work to make ends meet and had to arrange and sew thousands of ties and cummerbunds for pennies. Ly and her brothers did well in school but when Ly's eye sight began to decline, her father refused to let her get glasses convinced it was a government plot. His paranoia stemmed from his incarceration in a Vietnamese POW camp and lead to a prickly existence, especially with his wife and children. Ly's declining eye sight lead to difficulty at school and a longterm battle with depression. The second half of her memoir focuses on her struggle to stay motivated in school, having to fight back from the brink many times. As someone who was legally blind for the majority of my life and had to rely heavily on glasses and contact lenses, I resonated a lot with Ly's journey with her eyesight. One major difference though was that I was privileged enough to never go a day without insurance and family support and never had to struggle with my eyesight in school. I was floored with Ly's experience and wondered why it took so long before someone was able to help her. And then once they did, why was the only way to bring in child services? It just makes you question our healthcare system, which was exacerbated when Ly ended up in psychiatric care later. Reading about Ly's descent into deep depression was so tough but she told her story so well. I think this was one of the best memoirs about depression that I read because it focuses a lot on the despondency and how un-special it is. By that I mean that it was just Ly's everyday existence and her writing made you realize, wow this could happen to me too. I also liked her honesty with how she struggled to come back from it, trying therapy, medication, etc and eventually finding a good balance but acknowledging that it is there for life. I also got Lasik surgery to correct my vision and I had a visceral reaction to Ly's description of the surgery at the end. It was 1000% worth it but boy, I never want to go through it again!! Overall, Ly's writing was terrific. It was so visceral and honest that I often had a hard time reading but am so glad I did.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    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!

  28. 4 out of 5

    M. K. French

    Ly Tran was a toddler when her family emigrated from Vietnam to Ridgewood, Queens. Her father had been a member of the South Vietnamese army, then a POW for ten years. The family does piecework to make ends meet, and holds to their Buddhist faith. At the same time, Ly wants to fit in at school so badly. She is expected to have filial piety, and helps her family in all their endeavors, but has difficulty even seeing when her paranoid father feels that glasses are a conspiracy. Reading this memoir Ly Tran was a toddler when her family emigrated from Vietnam to Ridgewood, Queens. Her father had been a member of the South Vietnamese army, then a POW for ten years. The family does piecework to make ends meet, and holds to their Buddhist faith. At the same time, Ly wants to fit in at school so badly. She is expected to have filial piety, and helps her family in all their endeavors, but has difficulty even seeing when her paranoid father feels that glasses are a conspiracy. Reading this memoir brings back a lot of memories of New York City in the '90s when the Vietnamese diaspora began in earnest. There's a lot of familiarity with the locale, even though she lived in Brooklyn and I grew up in Queens, as well as the bullying, eagerness to fit in, and the difficulty balancing cultures. Even readers unfamiliar with Vietnamese culture can still appreciate the delicate dance that first-generation and refugee children face when trying to keep their home life and still integrate into larger American culture. Ly's father has PTSD from the horrors he saw and experienced while in the "reeducation" camps, which was expressed in various ways large and small throughout her life. The fatalistic isolation her mother experienced also comes across so that Ly felt alone at times even when surrounded by her family. I feel just as proud of Ly as the people in her life. She'd gone through a lot, as had her family, and came out on the other side of depression, hospitalization, and moments of suicidal ideation. There are a lot of little traumas that she grew up with, and it helped her connect with others that need a sense of belonging and a wider network to succeed academically. House of Sticks is a book that really spoke to me, and kept me thinking about the moments in it long after I put it down. As far as I'm concerned, that's the best part of a memoir.

  29. 5 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.

  30. 4 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.

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