Strom, Dao 1973–

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Strom, Dao 1973–

PERSONAL:

Born 1973, in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), South Vietnam; daughter of a writer and journalist. Education: Attended Iowa Writers' Workshop.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Juneau, AK. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer and musician. University of Iowa, Iowa City, graduate teaching assistant, 1996-97; Texas State University, San Marcos, creative writing instructor, 2005; John Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, Baltimore, creative writing instructor, 2006—; UCLA Extension, Los Angeles, creative writing instructor, 2007—.

AWARDS, HONORS:

James Michener fellowship 1998-99; Patricia Roberts Harris fellowship, 1995-97; Nelson Algren award Chicago Tribune, 1995; Writer League of Texas fellowship, 2000; National Endowment for the Arts, 2004; recipient of several grants, including Money for Women and Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

WRITINGS:

Grass Roof, Tin Roof, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.

The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys: Four Stories, Counterpoint (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor of short fiction to Chicago Tribune, and to literary magazines and anthologies.

SIDELIGHTS:

Novelist Dao Strom was born in Saigon, South Vietnam, in 1973, but was taken to the United States two years later when her mother fled the country. Her father stayed in Vietnam and was later incarcerated by the communist regime. In Strom's 2003 novel Grass Roof, Tin Roof, she fictionalizes the experiences of her mother, a noted Vietnamese journalist who, forced to flee her native land, finds a new family and faces a new set of challenges in the United States. Praising the author for her "spare, matter-of-fact prose," a Publishers Weekly contributor noted that, despite a slowing in the novel's narrative pace and a confusing story line, "Strom shows promise."

Grass Roof, Tin Roof fictionalizes not only the life of Strom's mother, but its author's own experiences as a child of the Vietnam War coming of age in 1980s America. In the novel, Trinh Ahn Tran finds herself facing government persecution due to her status as a writer. Strom's novel incorporates multiple points of view, and the story eventually shifts from that of the mother to the experiences of the children, Thuy, Thien, and Beth, as they grow up in a new culture and deal with cultural displacement when they are raised by their stepfateht after Trinh's death from tuberculosis. Calling Grass Roof, Tin Roof "unusually fragmented … [but] always engrossing," a Kirkus Reviews commentator praised the novel for portraying the "aching sense of rootlessness" experienced by its young protagonists.

The tales in The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys: Four Stories also portray the lives of Vietnamese women making their own way in America. Colleen Mondor stated in her Booklist review that the author allows her protagonists "to consider roads not taken and quests abandoned" while they attempt to discover who they are. Children of a Vietnamese diaspora, Strom's characters are, declared a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "all vagabonds, even when they seem settled and employed and, to one degree or another, centered, in these nevertheless loose and baggy stories." "I wanted each of them to have a displaced background," Strom told Donna Blumenfeld in Venus Zine, "and these are stories and experiences that I know of, so they needed to come from somewhere else."

In general, reviewers celebrated Strom's accomplishments in her collection of stories. "The most ordinary events … contain minor epiphanies," declared a Pub- lishers Weekly reviewer, "that can delicately convey her characters' sense of disconnection and longing." "Strom can write efficiently and movingly," the Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded. "Strom's collection is finally a literature of displacement—people are not where they should be," Joe Woodward stated in his SFGate.com review. "Her characters are all on the same journey—a quest to unpack their childhoods as a way of healing a mysterious emptiness they feel."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 1, 2006, Colleen Mondor, review of The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys: Four Stories, p. 22.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of Grass Roof, Tin Roof, p. 1729; April 1, 2006, review of The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys, p. 323.

Library Journal, November 1, 2002, Shirley N. Quan, review of Grass Roof, Tin Roof, p. 130.

New York Times, January 26, 2003, Andrew Ervin, review of Grass Roof, Tin Roof.

Publishers Weekly, January 13, 2003, review of Grass Roof, Tin Roof, p. 41; February 27, 2006, review of The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys, p. 33.

ONLINE

SFGate.com,http://sfgate.com/ (April 10, 2007), Joe Woodward, "Young Vietnamese Wander in America," review of The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys.

Venus Zine,http://www.venuszine.com/ (April 10, 2007), Donna Blumenfeld, "The Vietnamese Novelist's Second Book Pushes beyond Grass, Tin, and Borders," interview.