E.M. Tran, a Vietnamese American writer from New Orleans, Louisiana, visited Del Mar College on April 20 to talk about her debut novel, “Daughters of the New Year.”
Sarah K. Lenz, assistant professor and head of the English Department, joined Tran on stage in Richardson Performance Hall at Heritage Campus.
The novel takes place in New Orleans in 2016 and talks about a string of Vietnamese women: the mom, Xuan Trung, a former beauty pageant queen and immigrant who lives in the U.S.; and her daughters Trac, Nhi and Trieu. The mom becomes obsessed with telling her daughters history about the Vietnamese zodiac signs.
The three sisters, who are second-generation immigrants, try to balance living an American lifestyle while trying to live up to their mom’s expectations. Each of the daughters has diverged completely from their parents’ expectations.
As the story progresses the readers go back in time to see the lifestyle of the Trung family and how their traumas relate to their present day.
Tran stayed back to answer questions from the audience. One audience member wanted to know how she would sum up the novel in one sentence.
“I would say if I were to boil this down to one sentence this book is about women trying to survive in time and place, the struggle of keeping cultural traditions alive,” Tran said.
Gabriella Dennis, a Del Mar College student, asked how the novel was connected to Tran’s life.
“My great grandmother was a Mexican immigrant who raised first-generation immigrants, so I relate to the novel really well and understand the struggles,” Dennis said.
Tran said her mom inspired her to write the book.
“I started writing an essay about my mother’s participation in a beauty pageant in Saigon in 1973 and once I started writing the essay, I realized I didn’t know that much about her history or her experience in Vietnam and so I was inspired to write a book where I could imagine the parts of our family history that I didn’t know because I could’ve just made it up, right?” Tran said. “But it also just allowed me to do research and to get to know more and ask my parents more about it and so I was really inspired by my family and just wanting to know more about my own history.”