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University Libraries to host OHIO alum E.M. Tran for Authors @ Alden

Ohio University Libraries is pleased to welcome back alumna E.M. Tran on Thursday, Feb. 29, at 3 p.m. for a special Authors @ Alden in the 1951 Lounge on the fourth floor of Alden Library. She will be talking about her book, “Daughters of the New Year,” with Patrick O’Keeffe, associate professor of English,, and Madeline ffitch, novelist and also fellow alumna.

In addition to Tran’s Authors @ Alden event, she will be meeting with undergraduate and graduate creative writing students, as well as giving a reading later that day at 7 p.m. at Galbreath Chapel, with a Q&A session to follow. Both events are free and open to the public. Copies of her book will be available at the Alden and the Galbreath events, with an opportunity for Tran to sign them.

The book is a historical fiction piece about a Vietnamese American family in New Orleans with a focus on the mother, Xuan, and her three daughters, Trac, Nhi and Trieu. The story moves back and forth in time, as the characters live through both historic and major personal challenges and events. Specifically, the characters meet the Vietnamese woman warriors, Lady Triệu and the Trung Sisters.

Tran did her doctoral studies in the English department’s creative writing program at OHIO and wrote the majority of the first draft of “Daughters of the New Year” during that time. The work eventually served as her creative dissertation. Lady Triệu and the Trung Sisters were figures that Tran encountered during her studies, and she ended up researching them and their histories. It also inspired her to think about her own family’s history and the lineage of women she comes from. 

“I was interested in these woman warriors because Vietnam can be quite male-centered and historically has valued a certain kind of inflexible masculinity,” Tran said. “But it was curious to me that some of the few historic and mythologized figures were women, and it spurred me into this intellectual exercise where I imagined all the other forgotten or revised stories of other Vietnamese women lost to history.”

One thing that motivated Tran to begin writing was that she didn’t feel represented in literature growing up as a Vietnamese American. She didn’t think that reading lists reflected that inclusivity, so she decided to write those kinds of stories herself.

“For other Vietnamese or Asian American readers, I want them to see even a sliver of themselves in the work,” Tran added. “Of course, I don’t assume my experience stands for them all, but I know that seeing even one version of that experience can be tremendous for someone who feels they don’t belong to an American identity. For everyone else, I would love for them to be transported to a place or experience they aren’t familiar with, to leave the work with a bit more empathy, and for their worlds to be a little bigger.”

O’Keeffe has worked with Tran before and is excited to hear her read and talk about her work, for students to meet with her and to lead the discussion about Tran’s book. 

“Lizzie [Tran] is a very talented and individual writer,” O’Keeffe said. “The book subverts a reader’s expectations on so many levels. The characters are remarkably interesting and complex. Love and intimacy and humor shines through the writing, and the weight of history is deeply felt.”

During her time at OHIO, Tran worked for the Libraries’ Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections as a Rare Books’ graduate assistant. While working, Tran handled unique books and manuscripts, which made her think about written history and the fragility of physical objects that preserve and record human memory. She mentioned that her time with the Libraries was infused into the writing of the novel, and that the book owes a lot to the space, time, community and mentorship that her time at OHIO provided.

Miriam Intrator, interim head of the Mahn Center and Digital Initiatives and special collections librarian, mentioned that Tran’s visit to her alma mater, now as an author, is a special occasion.

“It's a wonderful opportunity to showcase an AAPI [Asian American/Pacific Islander] author who is an alum, who worked and did research at the Libraries and whose dissertation has been turned into an extremely well received and important popular novel,” Intrator said.

Candace Walsh, the English department’s Visiting Writers coordinator and doctoral candidate in creative writing who is producing Tran’s departmental events, is looking forward to her reading at Galbreath.

“Our Visiting Writers series has welcomed nationally prominent authors to campus for years, and it’s always extra significant to students when that author is an alum, like poet John Gallaher last fall, and E.M. Tran this month,” Walsh said. “I love watching authors chat with aspiring writers—students and community members—afterward. It’s clear that these kinds of events make the idea of publishing a book much more attainable.” 

For more information about the Authors @ Alden event or for accessibility accommodations contact Miriam Intrator at

February 19, 2024
Mimi Calhoun