Vu Tran was always reading as a child — “in the bedroom, at the dining table, in my mom’s car, in front of the TV,” he says. Reader soon became writer. In fifth grade, he wrote his first story, and learned that storytelling not only entertains, but also “allows you to define yourself.” Not until he began to visit his native Vietnam, in his early twenties, however, did his work begin to “blossom.” He came to understand why, though he had grown up happy (in Tulsa, Oklahoma), he had always felt “displaced.”
Tran, along with his sister and mother, fled Vietnam in 1980, crammed with almost 200 others in a fishing boat three meters long. After seven months in a Malaysian refugee camp, Tran met his father for the first time in America; he was 5 years old. The elder Tran, an officer in the South Vietnamese Air Force, had escaped alone when Saigon fell, his wife pregnant with their son.
In claiming his heritage and exploring that world in his fiction, Tran says, “I found I was educating myself about myself.” After receiving his BA and MA from the University of Tulsa, he entered the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, to earn his MFA. He completed his PhD as a Glenn Schaeffer Fellow at the University of Nevada. Throughout these years, he worked on short story collections, set primarily in Vietnam and revolving around themes of conflict, family, religion, and history.
Tran’s stories have appeared in the Harvard Review, Southern Review, Glimmer Train, Antioch Review, 2007 O. Henry Prize Stories, Best American Mystery Stories 2009, and others. He is now at work on his first novel, This or Any Desert, (forthcoming from W.W. Norton) and teaches creative writing at the University of Chicago.
Awards and Accomplishments
- Whiting Writers’ Award, Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation (2009)
- Lawrence Foundation Prize, Michigan Quarterly Review (2004)
- Short-Story Award for New Writers, Glimmer Train Stories (2003)