View Cart “Ivy vs. Dogg: With A Cast Of Thousands!” has been added to your cart.

Meditations On The Mother Tongue

by An Tran

“These stories build like storms” — Matthew Salesses


A deaf child discovers to her delight that she can communicate with zoo gorillas in her native language. An old man grieving for his departed wife looks to the giant turtle in Hanoi’s sacred lake for solace, believing it to be a god. An American scientist searches the mountains and rivers of Sumatra for signs of an otter believed to be extinct. A young man finds a surprising connection to his Vietnamese heritage when he takes up the acrobatic sport of parkour, motivating him to re-learn his forgotten first language.

In rich and vivid prose across twelve stories, men and women are displaced from their loved ones, their cultures and their homes, and look to the natural and spiritual worlds in search of anything that can offer a sense of belonging and lasting satisfaction. These are careful meditations on the desire to know one’s self and be known by others, where parents and lovers alike appear as gods or as ghosts, dominating and unknowable, and where the bonds between fathers and sons and brothers, men and women, husbands and wives, are built, tested and found lacking.



“Early in this fine collection, one of Tran’s narrators remarks on the final tonal distinctions that are the only difference between one word and another in Vietnamese. I mention this because it’s also such a perfect description of Tran’s unique gift as a writer: he has an ear attuned to the subtlest of differences in tone that open to reveal a world of nuance and meaning in the in-between places. The people living there in his collection – second generation immigrants, a Deaf girl, the parents of a chronically ill child – are seekers and wanderers, wondering how to tell their own stories. And it is here where Tran shines: he writes fiercely into the gap for the misfits and outsiders of the world.”

– Amber Sparks, author of The Unfinished World: And Other Stories


“The stories in Meditations on the Mother Tongue build like storms. They gather on the horizon until they’re upon you without you realizing when exactly you moved inside them. An Tran has written a collection of tense skies and complex humans longing for the light beyond. Put this book on your radar.”

– Matthew Salesses, author of The Hundred-Year Flood


“An Tran is one of the most gifted writers to appear on the DC lit scene in recent memory. These surprisingly varied stories about communication (and lack thereof) are so adventurous, intelligent, and wise (about humans and non-humans) that when the book was over I felt like I’d been scuba diving on Mars. Damn he’s good.”

– Richard Peabody, editor at Gargoyle Magazine


“An Tran’s debut collection, Meditations on the Mother Tongue, reveals an astonishing imaginative breadth: in one story, a mysterious grinning man embodies small-town prejudice; in another, a Sumatran boy teaches an American scientist the true nature of reality; in a third we witness the disintegration of an interracial marriage. It’s full of people (and animals) caught between one world and another—Vietnam and the US, the living and the dead. What is so powerful about these stories are the ways in which they integrate abstract concepts of the self, spirituality, even ecology, with vivid and often heartbreaking human intimacies. These are beautiful and expertly crafted stories about the struggle to find faith in a force that will return balance to a fractured and wounded world.”

– Naeem Murr, author of The Perfect Man


“The stories in Meditations on the Mother Tongue are fresh and beautiful—Alice Munro beautiful, with an eye to the foreign landscapes of our senses. You’ll want to keep up with this author.”

– April Ford, 2016 Pushcart Prize recipient and author of The Poor Children


“There are ghosts inhabiting An Tran’s Meditations on the Mother Tongue. They are not haunting, though: they are reminders and etchings. They are not echoes, but the original voices sounding their guttural howls into deep caverns and awaiting return. Each of these stories lives with a presence lingering, a remembrance attached to what we might try to leave behind us. We pick up each one, each of An Tran’s stories, and there we are, holding what the ghosts have returned, and each one trembles with history, and each one unburies a treasure we do not know hides in the earth.”

– Justin Lawrence Daugherty, Co-Publisher of Jellyfish Highway Press


“An Tran’s stories are exercises in compassion. His characters move through some of the tightest spots available in our natural and man-made worlds, reminding us that the voices guiding us toward our noblest efforts and our baser impulses speak to us in tongues that everybody can understand.”

– Aaron Alford, Managing Editor of Southern Humanities Review