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Abstract

In her article "Mapping Memory in Tran's Vietnamerica" Mary Goodwin explores the use of maps, landscape paintings, and other topographic images in Gia-Bao Tran's graphic memoir chronicling the "postmemory" of the US-American son of wartime refugees. Tran's family immigrated to the United States in 1975 following the fall of Saigon. Tran knew nothing of his parents' hardships and struggle to escape Vietnam until he returned for relatives' funerals in his 20s. Similar to Spiegelman's Maus, Vietnamerica is a mixed-media memoir containing photographs, maps, and comics in various styles. Following Hirsch's lead in demonstrating the special historical value of photographs in Maus, Goodwin argues for the unique value of the maps and landscape visuals Tran uses to relate Vietnam's history and his family's experiences. The medium of the graphic novel presents its own challenges as auto/biography and historical record and topographic images introduce a complication in juxtaposing the "real" public world with the personal and individual. Thus Vietamerica becomes an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of perspective on a multi-dimensional history of war, exile, and personal struggles to come to terms with cultural and familial identity.