For anyone who has ever felt like they don't belong, Sigh, Gone shares an irreverent, funny, and moving tale of displacement and assimilation woven together with poignant themes from beloved works of classic literature.
In 1975, during the fall of Saigon, Phuc Tran immigrates to America along with his family. By sheer chance they land in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a small town where the Trans struggle to assimilate into their new life. In this coming-of-age memoir told through the themes of great books such as The Metamorphosis, The Scarlet Letter, The Iliad, and more, Tran navigates the push and pull of finding and accepting himself despite the challenges of immigration, feelings of isolation, and teenage rebellion, all while attempting to meet the rigid expectations set by his immigrant parents.
Appealing to fans of coming-of-age memoirs such as Fresh Off the Boat, Running with Scissors, or tales of assimilation like Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Displaced and The Refugees, Sigh, Gone explores one man’s bewildering experiences of abuse, racism, and tragedy and reveals redemption and connection in books and punk rock. Against the hairspray-and-synthesizer backdrop of the ‘80s, he finds solace and kinship in the wisdom of classic literature, and in the subculture of punk rock, he finds affirmation and echoes of his disaffection. In his journey for self-discovery Tran ultimately finds refuge and inspiration in the art that shapes—and ultimately saves—him.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
When Phuc Tran’s family fled Vietnam as refugees, they escaped the dangers of war. But a different battle awaited young Phuc as his family settled into their new life in the small community of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Tran’s memoir recounts his youth as the only Vietnamese kid in town—it’s tragic, funny, frightening, and wildly entertaining. Subjected to constant racist bullying, Tran tries hard to assimilate into white culture, which means (among other things) reading all the great works of Western literature. But something incredible happens as he embarks on this plan: He falls in love with books. We were transfixed by Tran’s relatable stories of seeking acceptance amongst the cliques of his ’80s high school, where he eventually finds his place in a tight-knit group of punk rock skater kids. And we were floored by Tran’s talent for weaving the themes of prominent classics into his personal story: He peppers the story of a betrayal by his abusive father with references to The Metamorphosis, while comparing his academic woes to the complexities of The Iliad. This inimitable blend of highbrow references and street-smart punk attitude makes Sigh, Gone a fresh and invigorating read.
This high-impact, emotional memoir about growing up in a Vietnamese immigrant family refracts the author's angry adolescence through a prism of classic literature. Tran, now a high school Latin teacher, escaped the collapse of South Vietnam in 1975. One of the only Asian kids in the blue-collar town of Carlisle, Pa., Tran felt like an outsider. Falling in with "a wolfpack" of punk skaters partially satisfied his desire for belonging. But discovering Clifton Fadiman's The Lifetime Reading Plan, with its lists of must-read books Crime and Punishment, Madame Bovary, The Autobiography of Malcolm X sparked his imagination. Books also provided Tran a refuge from the gap between himself and his parents, who he portrays in colorfully unsparing terms, from his mother's "muscular, if simple, Catholicism" to his father's habit of beating him with a metal rod scavenged from the garbage: "American efficiency, meet Vietnamese ingenuity." Being well-read for Tran signified "the promise of acceptance and connection and prestige," and by book's end he enters adulthood as his own person and not just as an immigrant or rebel. Filled with euphoric flights of discovery, this complex and rewarding story of a book-enriched life vividly illustrates how literature can serve as a window to a new life.
Best book I’ve read in quite some time. Eloquent and entertaining. Must go now as this tome has greatly expanded my required reading list ...