Past Event

Aftershocks of War: A Chat with House of Sticks Author Ly Tran

November 11, 2022
4:10 PM - 5:30 PM
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403 Kent Hall, 1140 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10027



To register to attend this event in-person, please register HERE. *Please note that non-CUID holders need to show proof of their primary series and one booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines.

Speaker: Ly Tran, Author

Discussant: Hayeon Lee, Postdoctoral Research Scholar in the Weatherhead East Asian Institute; Lecturer in East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University

Ly Tran, author of a recently published and widely celebrated memoir entitled House of Sticks, will discuss her work in the context of the aftershocks of the Vietnam War, the particularly under-discussed issue of Vietnamese reeducation camp imprisonment, and the specifics of a New York – based diasporic and immigrant experience. House of Sticks follows Tran’s journey from a refugee camp in Thailand to resettlement in Ridgewood Queens, tracing her family’s struggles as part of New York’s immigrant community while also touching on her father’s experiences as an inmate in Vietnam’s Communist reeducation camp system. Her memoir takes on the form of an immigrant success story, but colors it deeply with an unflinching portrayal of the psychological trauma that informs so much of the Vietnamese modern experience, as well as the Vietnamese diasporic experience. Her story is also uniquely of New York, and connects modern Vietnamese culture, society, and history, with the diversity of New York’s identities and experiences. The novel has been awarded the New York City Book Award and the Hornblower Award, as well as listed as one of Vogue and NPR’s Best Books of the Year.

Recently, Scholars have increasingly explored the intricate relationship between East Asia and Asian America. The main connective tissue between these fields is arguably formed by diasporic and immigrant stories, whose trajectories unite East Asia with the many centers of Asian American culture in the United States. Our event focuses on two understudied aspects of this complex topic: 1) the Communist reeducation camps operated by the Vietnamese government, and 2) the Vietnamese New Yorker experience. According to the Dart Center, an estimated 1 million people were incarcerated in Vietnamese reeducation camps following the end of the Vietnam war (though this number has been disputed), with some 165,000 inmates dying inside the camps. At least 150 reeducation prisons were built after the fall of Saigon, and were sites of forced labor, torture, and abuse. Incarceration could last years with many inmates reporting over a decade of imprisonment. The Dart Center also reports that one in every three Vietnamese American families include former inmates. It is unsurprising, therefore, that reeducation camps form such a powerful founding experience for Vietnamese American culture and society. Ly Tran’s novel demonstrates this by describing her father’s experiences, and tracing how those traumas haunt the family as they build their new home in Ridgewood Queens. The novel, therefore, also provides a rare glimpse into a part of New York that is often passed over in silence. Vietnamese New Yorkers have become increasingly visible in recent years, due to the rise in popularity of modern Vietnamese cuisine. However, this increase in cultural visibility has not been accompanied by adequate exposure to Vietnamese history, society, or culture—especially the history, society and culture of those refugees who have comprise the Vietnamese American and Vietnamese New York communities.

This event is sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race..

Contact Information

Julie Kwan