A Message to Educators from GB Tran, Author of Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey

By Allan Spencer | May 10 2021 | English Language ArtsGraphic Novels

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re spotlighting books that celebrate the history, culture, and experiences of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community for students to read and learn from not only this month but all year long. In the graphic memoir Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey, artist GB Tran brings to life his family’s extraordinary story of fleeing Vietnam during the fall of Saigon and starting anew in a foreign land after immigrating to the U.S. Vietnamerica is a visually stunning portrait of survival, escape, and reinvention—and of the gift of the American immigrants’ dream, passed on to their children.

Read on for a gorgeously illustrated message to educators from GB Tran. A transcript of the text is also included below.

A MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR

Vietnamerica juxtaposes my parents’ journey of survival through the Vietnam War and its aftermath, with my search for their secret history.

It spans decades and continents as the decisions and consequences of three generations reveal how we came to be who we are, and explores three major multicultural issues of our modern world:

WAR

As conflicts continue to shape our world, it’s vital that the stories of the families affected—the human side of history—are told. Vietnamerica is an intimate account of a tumultuous war from a small group of survivors.

IMMIGRATION

Look far enough into history and we are all immigrants. Our journeys are as diverse as the world and history itself, but all share a physical and emotional trajectory that universally defines the immigrant experience. Vietnamerica explores this common thread that binds us all, regardless of our origin and destination.

FAMILY LEGACY

Sooner or later, we realize that to better understand ourselves, we need to better understand our parents. That to preserve our future, we need to discover our past. Vietnamerica is me saving my family’s legacy in the medium I love: comics!

Having been entertained, educated, and enriched by comics my entire life, I wanted to tell a story that takes advantage of this artform’s narrative, structural, and formal potential.

To tell a story with visuals that grab the audiences’ attention, draws them in, and encourages reading with information-rich panels creating a unique experience specific to each reader depending on how they absorb each word, each panel, each page.

Thanks to teachers and librarians’ burgeoning support, graphic memoirs continue to find a growing audience and and are powerful teaching tools as the “art of reading”!

Vietnamerica can appeal to a broad audience with its universal themes, and anyone at the age where they’re really trying to figure out who they are . . .  because at its heart, it’s a child puzzling together who and why he is before it’s too late.