Reviews for House of sticks (BOOK)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A moving coming-of-age memoir by a young Vietnamese American girl growing up in New York City. “We arrive in the blizzard of 1993, coming from rice paddies, mango trees, and the sun to February in the Empire State,” writes Tran in the opening passage, recounting how she came to the U.S. with her parents and three siblings. With very little English and almost no money, as well as a father who suffered from PTSD due to his time as a prisoner of war, the family had limited prospects. As she chronicles the significant obstacles her family faced, Tran also shows their grit and determination to survive and thrive in their new home of Ridgewood, Queens. In her vivid depictions, the author spares no detail of harsh winters, malnutrition, and acute poverty. Progressing from their rough times during the “sweatshop days,” the family moved on to own a nail salon, and the children dedicated themselves to their education while also working to support the family in their spare time. As the only daughter, Tran describes her troubled relationships with her siblings and parents as well as the trauma of her father’s PTSD. Because he believed that wearing glasses meant admitting failure, Tran suffered unnecessarily from severe visual impairment. Her parents also imparted to her a stoic Buddhism, which emphasizes fate and endurance. Occasionally reminiscent of Ocean Vuong’s novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous (2019), especially in its sharp examination of the unique cultural and social issues facing immigrants from Southeast Asia, the narrative also speaks to the hardships that non-White women endure under the double yoke of sexism and racism. Particularly difficult to read are the sections in which Tran outlines her mental fragility and the failure of the educational system to sustain her. However, with dedication and the support of friends, the author graduated from Columbia with a degree in creative writing and linguistics. A brutally honest, ultimately hopeful narrative of family, immigration, and resilience. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.