Divided into two two stories, one prose, the other comics, Day Trips No. 3 continues Grace Tran’s exploration of her family’s history. Often times when American writers write about war, theirs is from the perspective of those going off to fight in it. Grace’s family is from Vietnam, and so hers is from the perspective of those upon whom war had descended.
In the first story, “Sonata,” is broken up into movements, jumping in place and time (and initially perspective) to tell the story of love torn asunder by war. Grace’s grandmother’s cousin, Bui Tin and Grace’s piano teacher, Co Lac Nhan were once in love in Vietnam, but the war sent Co Lac Nhan to Paris, and Bui Tin to the Cu Chi tunnels under Ho Chi Minh City. Through Grace’s eyes -as a child and as an adult- their story is told when Bui Tin visits Chicago, and later when Grace and her brother visit Bui Tin in France.
The second story -a comic- “On the Fansipan,” tells a story within a story within a story. On a train in Rocky Mountains, Grace meets an american Vietnam War veteran, and she tells him of the time she visited her aunt in the same mountains he had fought in decades before. In turn, Grace’s aunt tells her the story of how she and Grace’s father were separated by the war, how she was sold into slavery, and eventually liberated.
Both of Grace’s stories in Day Trips No. 3 involve travel to explore the toll war took on both sides of her family. This is an important metaphor in these stories, even though she is just one generation removed from the war, Grace puts herself in the role of a tourist to investigate these histories. These two stories are well crafted, written in a way that’s more reminiscent of fiction rather than autobiography, with poetic imagery, and descriptions that take you to the foreign countries Grace explores.