In 1975, during the fall of Saigon, Phuc Tran immigrates to America along with his family. In this coming-of-age memoir told through the themes of great books such as The Metamorphosis and The Scarlet Letter, Tran navigates the push and pull of finding and accepting himself despite the challenges of immigration, feelings of isolation, teenage rebellion, and assimilation, all while attempting to meet the rigid expectations set by his immigrant parents.
Tran has written the great punk rock immigrant story. Or should that be the definitive refugee punk rock story? Or a story about how punk rock and great books helped a Vietnamese kid in small-town America fit in by standing out? Whatever order we put the words in, Tran’s book is my pick for the best, the funniest and the most heartfelt memoir of the year ... With grace and clarity, Tran writes pivotal scenes involving the sometimes violent disconnect between his traumatized refugee parents and their Americanized children—a testament to the sensitivity and balance he brings to his exploration of generational and cultural conflict ... filters the archetypal high school misfit story through the lens of immigration and assimilation, building it into a larger narrative about the ways music and books can bring us together, even when the larger world threatens to tear us apart.
... affecting, deeply felt ... [Tran] writes movingly about his struggle for acceptance and his two-pronged attack to achieve assimilation ... A clever conceit, in this connection, is his naming each chapter with the title of a great book and then finding a parallel with his life in each. The result is a compelling story of an outsider discovering himself and a world where he fit in.
Tran's loosey-goosey writing style is all over the place in emotional tone and subject—something I might ordinarily find annoying, but kind of appreciate right now. In this confused and scary time, a story about displacement that itself is so scrambled feels just right to me ... In his loose, often funny, and rambling way, Tran talks a lot about the reassuring influence of books ... But the surprise element in Tran's coming-of-age story is punk rock ... In actuality and on the pages of this memoir, Tran's life goes off-road, defies reading plans or most other kinds of plans. Which makes Sigh, Gone a congenial read for our chaotic time.