Book Review: Sigh, Gone

Title: Sigh, Gone
Author: Phuc Tran
Date Published: April 21, 2020
Rating: 4.25/5 stars
Date read: May 5, 2020

Sigh, Gone is a memoir written by high school teacher and tattoo artist Phuc Tran. In his memoir Phuc details his experiences immigrating to the US during the fall of Saigon, and growing up in the small town Carlisle, Pennsylvania. We follow Phuc up until he graduates high school and through his story we see the struggles he endured growing up as a minority in a small town, and having a father with PTSD.

It always pleases me when I’m reading a book and one of the things I take away from it is the feeling that the author is extremely well spoken and intelligent. Some people are just meant to tell a story and offer thought provoking insight into what they are discussing. I think Phuc’s book brought about some great discussions on racism and definitely had me questioning what I define racism to be. His writing style is gritty, which isn’t always something I enjoy, but I think this type of writing style lends well to his story. Phuc also does a very good job at balancing humour with serious content, and I appreciated the light-hearted moments thrown into the story. I also really enjoyed how this memoir was organized. Phuc names each chapter after a classic novel and then relates that novel back to what he is experiencing in the chapter. I haven’t read many of the classics he mentioned, but now I’d like to, especially after the insight he offered into each novel.

As for Phuc’s experiences, the instances of racism and child abuse Phuc faced growing up are horrifying and extremely difficult to read, but they are subjects that need to be addressed more openly. The fact that he was wary about applying to Bard College because it’s situated in a small town and his experiences with small towns in regards to racism are so negative was so disheartening to read about and I know the feeling of comfort of being in a more diverse setting. I personally found it easy to relate to being a young person trying to hide behind a certain type of identity, be it goth or punk or preppy. And I really liked his introspection, especially when it came to his relationship and important moments with his father. Not all parent-child relationships are easy but I can understand a longing to improve and understand those relationships with age. 

Something I love reading about is the important bonds between family members and between friends. Phuc’s relationship with his brother Lou was one of the highlights of the novel for me, and through his writing and experiences you can really tell Phuc loves and cares about his brother. I also really enjoyed reading about Phuc’s friendships with his punk friends and how they were such an important part of his life. 

Sigh, Gone is by no means a light and easy read, but I do think it’s worthwhile and I’d recommend it to anyone who loves memoirs or impactful stories. 

Content warning: violence, child abuse, racism 

Have you read Sigh, Gone? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗

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