House of Sticks: Book summary and reviews of House of Sticks by Ly Tran

House of Sticks

by Ly Tran

House of Sticks by Ly Tran X
House of Sticks by Ly Tran
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Book Summary

An intimate, beautifully written coming-of-age memoir recounting a young girl's journey from war-torn Vietnam to Ridgewood, Queens, and her struggle to find her voice amid clashing cultural expectations.

Ly Tran is just a toddler in 1993 when she and her family immigrate from a small town along the Mekong river in Vietnam to a two-bedroom railroad apartment in Queens. Ly's father, a former lieutenant in the South Vietnamese army, spent nearly a decade as a POW, and their resettlement is made possible through a humanitarian program run by the US government. Soon after they arrive, Ly joins her parents and three older brothers sewing ties and cummerbunds piece-meal on their living room floor to make ends meet.

As they navigate this new landscape, Ly finds herself torn between two worlds. She knows she must honor her parents' Buddhist faith and contribute to the family livelihood, working long hours at home and eventually as a manicurist alongside her mother at a nail salon in Brownsville, Brooklyn, that her parents take over. But at school, Ly feels the mounting pressure to blend in.

A growing inability to see the blackboard presents new challenges, especially when her father forbids her from getting glasses, calling her diagnosis of poor vision a government conspiracy. His frightening temper and paranoia leave an indelible mark on Ly's sense of self. Who is she outside of everything her family expects of her?

Told in a spare, evocative voice that, with flashes of humor, weaves together her family's immigration experience with her own fraught and courageous coming of age, House of Sticks is a timely and powerful portrait of one girl's struggle to reckon with her heritage and forge her own path.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Tracing the paths of immigration and poverty, Tran's moving and exceptionally readable memoir is at once heartbreaking, shocking, and hopeful...Tran is exceptional at telling her story with honesty and without judgment. Readers who loved Tara Westover's Educated (2018) will find a similarly compelling memoir of resilience in a not-often-seen America." - Booklist (starred review)

"A moving coming-of-age memoir by a young Vietnamese American girl growing up in New York City...speaks to the hardships that non-White women endure under the double yoke of sexism and racism...A brutally honest, ultimately hopeful narrative of family, immigration, and resilience." - Kirkus Reviews

"House of Sticks is a book that will assault and warm your heart at the same time—a classic immigrant tale, told from the perspective of a Vietnamese child who settled with her family in New York City in the early '90s with little to no knowledge about life in America...But it is also much more." - Vogue, Best Books to Read 2021

"In her phenomenal debut, House of Sticks: A Memoir, Ly Tran mines both trauma and love from her coming of age as a young Vietnamese immigrant to the United States...Her vivid, unadorned narration yields a painful but powerful exploration of the struggle to find a sense of self within a family at the cross-section of cultures, and Tran's story is impossible to forget." - Shelf Awareness

"At the heart of Tran's story as a Vietnamese refugee, a young woman, a daughter, a sister, and much more, lie the intimately drawn portraits of the people whom she loves despite their imperfections and the people who love her—despite hers. House of Sticks is a vibrant reminder of the ferocious courage it takes to love and to be loved, and how that courage is the first step toward finding your place in the world." - Phuc Tran, author of Sigh, Gone

"On the landscape of nail salons and her family's sweat shop, Ly Tran paints the songs of her courage, dreams, and her fight for sanity and humanity. This is the story of a magnificent lotus who rises up from a pond of mud – the mud of poverty, racism, inherited trauma, depression – with the power and radiance of her storytelling. This is a book that demands us to look beyond just the name of each and every war refugee. This is a book that gives us light." - Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, PhD, bestselling author of The Mountains Sing

"I guarantee that you will never see the nail salon technician in the same way after reading Ly Tran's memoir. House of Sticks is a powerful report from the trenches of the immigrant experience and what it really means to become an American. It's Tran's story, but it's also the story of this country—and in this day and age we would do well not to forget that." - Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, author of When Skateboards Will be Free and Brief Encounters With the Enemy

This information about House of Sticks shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Ly Tran

Ly Tran graduated from Columbia University in 2014 with a degree in Creative Writing and Linguistics. She has received fellowships from MacDowell, Art Omi, and Yaddo. House of Sticks is her first book.

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