Message From The Author

GB Tran

Genre: Comics/Graphic Novels/Manga, Graphic Novel

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Author's Message

When RT asked me to write about my reactions to learning all the wild things my family survived and the difficult choices they were forced to make to get to where they are now, all the typical feelings you’d expect came to mind: shock, sadness, inspiration, etc. It was an emotional rollercoaster uncovering their journey and bringing this project to fruition. But if I’m to be completely honest, my earliest reaction to hearing their stories when I was a small child must have been... “who cares?” How else could I have been so clueless about their past until my mid-20’s? Why else would it have taken me this long to want to finally understand and preserve their stories in Vietnamerica?  

The youngest of four children and the only born in the US, I was the most detached from my parents’ experiences. In their own way, they tried to express to me the trials they went through to help instill a great appreciation and respect, but those lessons were lost in the cracks of my youth and growing up. Did they really want to keep dwelling on their painful past or be trapped in their memories?  

It wasn’t until my first trip to Vietnam in 2001 that whispers and rumors of my parents’ past lives wove in and out of conversation and, for the first time, an interest in their journey began to bubble up inside me. But that illuminating trip occurred when I had just moved to Brooklyn from Arizona so the project got put on the back burner as I tried to find my own footing in a strange new world. It wasn’t until 2006 that I was able to return to the material and start seriously thinking what to do with it. Realizing that I’d never have enough time to do everything I wanted, I recognized I had just enough time to do the most important things... and that was to uncover my family’s untold history in a medium I loved.

In 2007 I returned to Vietnam but unlike my first trip, in which I traveled with an open mind to new experiences, this time I was there for one single purpose: to interview as many family and friends as possible and record their stories. The floodgates to my parents’ trials and struggles burst open and upon returning to New York, I immediately began work on what would become Vietnamerica.   

Planning to be a father myself some day, I imagine that every parent hopes their child will want to try to understand them better, the world and culture they came from, and the legacy that has been inherited. As those whose blood, sweat, and tears created this legacy—family and friends—pass to time, it becomes even more vital to preserve their history. Vietnamerica is me reaching that point with my parents before it was too late.

- GB Tran

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