GB Tran: Vietnamerica

February 16, 2012 § 1 Comment

When I heard about the event of a graphic novelist coming to campus, of course I was immediately interested. Ever since I was a child, I have been interested in cartoons, comics, art, etc. Between the ages of eleven and nineteen I read almost nothing but Japanese manga. Even at my age of twenty-two, you can still find me at Von’s buying more comic books to read and add to my collection. I cannot explain my fascination with the comic book world, but there is something about them that I just cannot abandon. And thus why I made it a point to come to this talking. Also, as seen above, I have an interest in various Asian cultures, so to see that this graphic novel was written about Vietnam certainly caught my interest as well.

Getting to the auditorium, I was a bit sad to see that not many people were there. Sure, it was not empty, but I still believe that this is a medium that more people should be interested in. It is a unique and more…fun way of telling a story. As he began to talk, I poised my pen and got to writing.

One of the first things GB Tran began to talk about was what Vietnamerica was about and why he wrote it. Vietnamerica is about a somewhat clueless American kid, as he does not know much about his (or his parent’s) past and culture. Being Vietnamese but born in America, he had not really shown much interest in his culture until he went with his parents to Vietnam. It is a story a bout culture and generations. This graphic novel was completely done by GB Tran, the text and illustration being done solely by himself. Also, he said that this was a very personal story, as it is about him and his family.

Tran said that his ideas were far from being a “struck of lighting,” but instead these were ideas that came to him from a series of small events. Originally going to college for astrophysics, Tran has a very different way of thinking and telling stories. He said that he knows people whose inspirations come to them suddenly, but he is not one of these people. He has always been interested in arts and comics, even drawing his own comic when he was ten titled “X-Out.” It was like a combination of X-Men and Transformers. When he was going to college, he had the pressur from his parents about being successful, such as being a doctor or engineer, so he did not pursue art in school. Though, in saying this, he did cram many of his required classes in the summer so he had time during the school year to take as many art classes as he wished.

Once he graduated, he realized that he was now going to be making decisions that he would be responsible for. While he was living on his own, his mother and father asked if he wanted to join them in a trip to Vietnam, which he has denied many times before, but he finally decided to go with them to “postpone adult responsibilities.” During this trip, he got to observe his parents in a different light, being able to see how they interacted with her friends, family, etc. He began to tell a bit about his family’s past, such as how his father’s father abandoned his family to fight with Ho chi Mihn, and that his parents fled Vietnam when the war broke out with only their children and very few items.

I took four pages of notes, but I am not able to write about all that he said. When talking about the comic, he said that it dealt with three themes. War, immigration, and family legacy. GB Tran was a very interesting man to talk to, and one of the things I took from this talk was to find out as much of your family’s story before you lose access to them and they’re gone forever.

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§ One Response to GB Tran: Vietnamerica

  • GB Tran’s talk was extremely more relaxed than I expected and he was so humble! “Vietnamerica” reminds me of the graphic novel, MAUS, but Art Spiegelman. The book comic series revolves around his father’s experience as a holocaust survivor. The artwork is haunting and beautiful, with Jews as mice and Germans as cats.

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