Crown Point High School’s Dual Credit World Literature courses hosted author and University of Chicago professor Vu Tran. Tran is a Vietnamese American author whose writing often explores themes of identity, displacement, and the immigrant experience. His debut novel, Dragonfish, was released in 2015 and was a NY Times Notable Book and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Books of the Year.
In an interview, Professor Tran discussed his work and also answered questions from CPHS students. World Literature students recently read Tran’s A Refugee Again as part of their coursework, which set the foundation for many of their questions. Those questions created conversations about balancing one’s identity when belonging to different cultures, how playing a role in society affects each of us, and how good storytellers embody curiosity.
Professor Tran also attended Mr. Smith’s creative writing class and talked with students about writer's craft, specifically about how to create believable characters. Students were able to use creative writing prompts that Professor Tran uses in his own classes and had an opportunity to discuss their own work. They began class with a discussion about what they love about characters they encounter in movies and literature.
Vu Tran was born in Saigon in 1975, five months after his father, a captain in the South Vietnamese Air Force, was forced to flee the country. In the spring of 1980, Tran, his mother, and his seven-year-old sister escaped Vietnam by boat, spending five days at sea. They ended up in Malaysia and settled in a refugee camp on the island of Pulau Bidong, off the Malaysian coast. Four months later, Tran’s father sponsored them from America, and in September, they all reunited in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he met his father for the first time.
Tran grew up in Oklahoma and eventually studied English at the University of Tulsa, where he also received his MA in English. He went on to get an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and then a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he also taught literature and fiction writing. He is currently an Associate Professor of Practice in English and Creative Writing at the University of Chicago.
Tran’s writing has also appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly, and other publications. He is the winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award and a National Endowment in the Arts Fellowship, and has also been a fiction fellow at Bread Loaf, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony.