after the jump: GB Tran interview (mp3)

by Grace Bonney

Yesterday when I was leaving the radio station after my show, I had a moment where I felt so incredibly happy. I haven’t really done anything that scared me, work-wise, for a while, and this show has been a huge test of my ability to commit, research and confront one of my biggest fears and weaknesses: interviews. While I’m still working on being a better interviewer and radio host, I’m starting to feel more comfortable talking to people I admire, especially artists I wouldn’t typically get a chance to meet in my usual coverage of shops, products and trends.

Photo above by Joe Tomcho

Earlier this spring, my friend (and very talented illustrator) Alex Eben Meyer introduced me to his friend and equally talented cartoonist, GB Tran. GB had a booth at MoCCA where he was displaying and selling copies of his phenomenal graphic memoir, Vietnamerica. I bought a copy and read the entire book (it’s a wonderful, dense 300-page book) in one evening. And the second I closed the book, I reopened it and re-read a section of it. When I told GB that, he smiled and said he was hoping people would do that. To say that Vietnamerica, which tells the story of GB’s family’s escape from Vietnam to America during the Vietnam War, is a masterpiece is not an overstatement. GB has created one of the most beautiful, powerful and challenging (in a good way) books I’ve ever read. If you’re a fan of beautiful artwork, memoirs or moving storytelling in general, this book is a must-buy, plain and simple.

GB was kind enough to take time out of his very busy schedule (he and his wife have a four-month-old baby) to talk with me yesterday, and I really enjoyed hearing his thoughts on comics, artwork, creative discussions and panels, the day-to-day life of a cartoonist and what it means to tell someone’s family story. I hope you’ll sit down to hear what GB has to say; I was really happy to have this moment to speak with him and hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks again to GB — you can visit his site here, his blog here and buy a copy of Vietnamerica (you won’t regret it) here. xo, grace


*Previous episodes of After the Jump: Todd Oldham, Of a Kind, Genevieve GorderJason Goodman of Third Ward, Eric and Jonathan of The Brooklyn Flea, Meg Mateo Ilasco, Sibella Court, Tina Shoulders and Owyn Ruck

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  • I’m a Vietnamese American (born in CA :D), been following DesignSponge for over a year now and really, really love this new series on diversity. I didn’t even know about this graphic novel until you posted it up!! And, may I add, Grace, that you make a great interviewer?? It’s been a pleasure listening to (most hah) of the podcast interviews – you have the ability to make the interviewees (and listeners!) comfortable, and draw out their genuine personalities, I think.

    Love from the West Coast!

  • I’m Chinese-born-in-Vietnam and came to America as a very young child after the war. My family doesn’t speak about the past and I’m excited to read about GB’s experience. I just ordered the book. Like Jeannie, I really appreciate diversity in media too, which is one of the reasons I love Vogue Australia. Thank you!

  • Thanks for recommending a great book and for bringing a new approach to DS. Storytelling is alive and well!

  • Based on your recommendation, Vietnamerica sounds like it will be a wonderful read. I didn’t realize that you were doing podcasts, I’m looking forward to listening!

  • Love your review of Vietnamerica, and have added it to my wishlist for purchase…I’m really looking forward to reading a graphic novel, and hope I can interest other family members in it, as well. Thanks so much for bringing it to Design Sponge (of which I am a HUGE fan, by the way!!)

  • I really enjoyed listening to this interview – thank you for introducing me to G.B.’s work! As someone with Vietnamese immigrant parents myself, my ears always perk up when I find an artist who tells their story because it pushes me to see myself and what my family went through with new eyes. And I love illustration, so this is a bonus! Vietnamerica is on my to-read list!

  • I can’t believe you have any nerves when it comes to interviews — you are such a natural! I love listening to After The Jump interviews. They are the perfect soundtrack for my workday. Look forward to listening to this one!