“Sigh, Gone” by Phuc Tran

About the book, from Macmillan:

“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.

About the Author, Phuc Tran:

“I was born in Sài Gòn Việt Nam, my family fled to America in 1975, and I grew up in Carlisle PA. Reared on a steady diet of Saturday morning cartoons, John Hughes, Star Wars, Bones Brigade videos, and bootlegged cassettes of Minor Threat and TSOL, I graduated high school in 1991. I majored in Classical Languages and Literature at Bard College—how did no one talk me out of that?—got my Master’s Degree at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and then moved to New York City in 1997. There I apprenticed to be a tattooer while teaching Latin during the day, and I’ve been teaching and tattooing ever since. I’ve never been good at staying in one lane—ask my wife about my driving.

Following in the footsteps of E.B. White (who was neither a tattooer nor Latin teacher), my wife and I left the city and moved to Maine in 2003 (she’s an honest-to-goodness Mainer) where we opened our shop, Tsunami Tattoo.

In 2012, I delivered a TEDx talk which was highlighted by NPR’s TED Radio Hour. The TEDx talk and its reception planted a seed in me for sharing more of my story as a refugee (of which I’d shared very little). I embarked on writing my memoir in 2016, and in April 2020 SIGH, GONE was published by Flatiron Books. You can read the memoir to get all the gory details of my childhood and adolescence, but spoiler alert: I do somehow survive.

And here I am at present, deeply grateful to be following this brambly path to its unknown destination.

As Joe Strummer said, the future is unwritten.”

Why I selected Sigh, Gone for the May 2022 Giveaway:

  • This gnome loves a good memoir, and this one fits the bill. A memoir that is structured around great books AND 80s punk rock!?!?!? Honestly, what could be better?
  • In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, this gnome wanted to feature an author and book that uncovers the unique voices and experiences of being raised in an immigrant family.
  • Although heavy at times, this memoir does a wonderful job walking the line between the seriousness of the immigrant experience along with the (often awkward yet humorous!) experience of growing up.
  • While the specific situations in this memoir may not be the same for us, the struggles of growing up and learning who you are is relatable to all 🙂
  • Finally, in addition to writing a fabulously relatable memoir, Phuc Tran is also an AMAZING tattoo artist. Since our plan was to feature Tucson’s murals this month, it seemed like a good pairing. The visual arts and books are two of this gnome’s favorite things ❤
  • Although this came to me AFTER I selected this book, it’s provided us with a wonderful tome-hiding theme this month: Memoirs at Murals in May (who doesn’t love some good alliteration???).

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