AudioFile - Find your next great audiobook
Get our Newsletter
blog post image
Talking with Author Phuc Tran

Phuc Tran’s memoir, SIGH, GONE and his picture book, CRANKY have, as he puts it, “a shared DNA.” Each has a playful tone with important underpinnings of Tran’s experiences throughout 20 years of teaching teens and now raising two children. “Nothing guts a kid more than when the important adults don’t take them seriously.”

In his own childhood Tran often felt “summarily dismissed.” He found his viewpoint expanded while writing his memoir as he developed the portrait of a father who went from being a lawyer in Vietnam to working in a racist factory in Pennsylvania. He acknowledges that he, like many children, saw his parents as two-dimensional but says that writing has helped him recognize the sacrifices his father made.

Sigh, GoneThere were other surprises as Tran wrote. “My goal was to delight myself first and foremost. I was going to write the thing that would make me laugh, or make me cry, or feel emotional. That was my way of making sure that my work was authentic to my voice.” There were hard parts in both writing and narrating. “I got choked up in the scene in which my father was getting bullied in the tire factory. And the acknowledgements were hard, too, because I was so tired and emotional at the end of the book.”

Tran wonders if his memoir is too spicy for young adults, but the combination of his frank discussion of sexuality and “the fight to fit in” will certainly speak to this audience. As an adult, he’s gained a sense of himself and his self-worth. His advice for adolescents seeking their places in the world? “Find a place or space where you feel seen, valued, and understood. That’s where you’ll find strength and support.”

Tran realized it was important for the narrator of his memoir to pronounce Vietnamese words correctly. “I had listened to some Vietnamese books, and the mispronunciations were as jarring as a needle screeching off a record. It felt inauthentic, and I thought if someone’s narrating my true story, they have to nail it at every step.” Additional mispronunciations of Pennsylvania’s regionalisms and ‘80s terms led him to tell his agent,” I think I need to do this myself.” Her response? “Okay, if you want to dig your own grave, that’s fine.”

She was trying to prepare him for how challenging the audiobook recording process is, something he discovered for himself as he recorded 100 pages a day, sometimes seven or eight hours a day, “It was tough, but the direction of Mattie Argiropolous was terrific.” He hasn’t listened to his own recording, but when it was nominated for an Audie Award, he thought, “I guess I didn’t mess it up.”

Generally, Tran reads rather than listens. In the fall, however, when he was doing a lot traveling and his book club was reading Barbara Kingsolver’s DEMON COPPERHEAD, he started with print, switched to audio, and never went back to the print. “When audiobooks are at their best, they’re their own work of art. DEMON COPPERHEAD is one of the best audiobooks I’ve heard in 10 years. It’s an incredible book anyway, but the narrator, Charlie Thurston, is a pro. Just incredible.”

About the audio of CRANKY, Tran says, “I saw the narration as a way to involve more creative people, to have CRANKY be a generative project. I’m not a trained narrator. I did the memoir because I had a checklist and kept crossing people off, and, finally, I was the only person who checked all the boxes.”

Tran’s memoir ends with his intention to double major in literature and art in college. “I bailed on both and majored in classical languages and literature.” But his publication of two books and his successful tattoo business in Portland, Maine, means he’s achieved both, though the process was “a slow simmer.” He built his skills as a tattoo artist in grad school and then taught and tattooed for 20 years. “I was obsessed with both because they’re both so hard and rewarding.”

While he laughs at the idea of listening to audios while tattooing, he sometimes finds that when he’s undertaking the long process of shading in a large area, it’s “great processing time to think about writing hitches.”

Has he memorialized CRANKY on his body? “The book’s new yet,” he laughs. But he defines himself as a person who pretty much says yes to everything. “So we’ll see how it goes. It’s not out of the question.”


Susie Wilde is a longtime reviewer for AudioFile.

Phuc Tran photos courtesy of the author

AudioFile Magazine is your #1 source for audiobook reviews. 

Share This
More From Audiofile
blog post image
Talking with Author Martha Wells

Martha Wells is the author of the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Award-winning sci-fi series The Murderbot Diaries, which consists of five novellas and two novels (so far). It’s

blog post image
Behind the Mic with Cynthia Leitich Smith and Shaun Taylor-Corbett

AudioFile’s Jo Reed spoke with author Cynthia Leitich Smith and narrator Shaun Taylor-Corbett about collaborating on audiobooks, writing and narrating for young people,

The latest audiobook reviews, right in your inbox.

Get our FREE Newsletter and discover a world of audiobooks.


AudioFile Newsletter

Let us recommend your next great audiobook!

No algorithms here!
We pick great audiobooks for you.
Sign up for our free newsletter with audiobook love from AudioFile editors.

If you are already with us, thank you! Just click X above.


Thank you for signing up.



Thank you for contacting us!

Our group will review and follow up within 72 hours.
Thanks for your interest!

Back Home ×


Thank you for signing up!

Our group will review and follow up soon.

Back Home ×