Vu Tran was born in Saigon in 1975, five months after the city fell to the North Vietnamese and five months after his father, a captain in the South Vietnamese Air Force, was forced to flee the country. In the spring of 1980, Tran, his mother, and his seven-year-old sister escaped Vietnam by boat, spending five days at sea. They ended up in Malaysia and settled in a refugee camp on the island of Pulau Bidong, off the Malaysian coast. Four months later, Tran’s father sponsored them from America, and in September, they all reunited in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he met his father for the first time.
Tran grew up in Oklahoma and eventually studied English at the University of Tulsa, where he also received his MA in English. He went on to get an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and then a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he also taught literature and fiction writing. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Practice in the Arts in English and Creative Writing at the University of Chicago.
Tran’s short stories have appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories, A Best of Fence, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, and other publications. He has received honors from Glimmer Train Stories and the Michigan Quarterly Review, and is a recipient of a 2009 Whiting Writers’ Award and a 2011 Finalist Award for the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise.
In 2008, Tran was asked to contribute a short story about Chinatown to the Las Vegas Noir anthology (Akashic Books). After “This Or Any Desert” was included in the Best American Mystery Stories 2009, he found himself still drawn to the four main characters—Robert, Suzy, Sonny, and “Junior”. He decided to weave elements of his own life into their personal histories, to tell the overarching story of what connects these characters to each other and what tears them apart. “This Or Any Desert” would become the second chapter of Dragonfish, Tran’s debut novel.