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University Press of Kentucky Celebrates 75 Years

Three quarters of a century ago, what would become University Press of Kentucky (UPK) got its start in the history department at the University of Kentucky. Now, over 2100 books later, we are celebrating that history with a special LexArts Gallery Hop exhibit—UPK75—opening on the second floor of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning today from 5 to 8 pm. There will be entertainment, light refreshments, and book signings with several prominent Kentucky authors, including George Ella Lyon, Mike Norris, Richard Taylor, David J. Bettez, and more. The UPK75 exhibit will remain on display until mid-July.

Earlier this year, state appropriations for UPK were eliminated from the biennial budget, but the press will continue. In a statement released by University of Kentucky’s President, Eli Capiluto, he pledged to work “with our partner institutions to identify ways to sustain the financial viability of the press over the long term.” An open letter from Provost David W. Blackwell, Interim Dean of the Libraries Deirdre Scaggs, and our director, Leila W. Salisbury, outlines the long-term goal “to chart a strong path forward for UPK.”

With the support of the University of Kentucky, consortia partners, authors, and citizens throughout the commonwealth, we look forward to continuing to serve Kentucky as well as readers across the globe. “I’m deeply grateful for the many expressions of support for the press this winter,” said Salisbury, “from university administrators to librarians to educators to readers across the commonwealth. What became clear during the budget process was just how many people value what we do at the press. And that is a marvelous place to start the next seventy-five years of our history.”

The UPK75 exhibit will showcase our rich history through artifacts, book displays, historical documents, and more. The centerpiece is a timeline of that history, with artifacts and information illustrating key moments. Each of our four directors are highlighted, from Bruce F. Denbo, who was hired in 1950 and led UPK through the transition to a consortium representing fifteen different member institutions, to current director Leila W. Salisbury, who began working at the press full time in 1994 as assistant to the director. Among other items, the timeline will include our original analog database, letters and correspondence regarding the press’s founding, and interesting ephemera.

The exhibit will also include several specialized displays focusing on various aspects of press history and book production. A grouping of information on, material by, and artifacts from UPK founder, Thomas D. Clark (1903–2002), includes one of his canes, photographs, and a number of historic documents. It tells Clark’s story as it relates to the press and beyond, including his work in the UK history department and his role in founding the Kentucky Archives Commission in 1957. Other displays include artwork from renown folk artist Minnie Adkins that was featured in Mommy Goose: Rhymes from the Mountains, by Mike Norris and archival materials related to book production, including plate negatives, F&Gs, and bluelines.

Other initiatives for our 75th anniversary:

  • Cricket Press has designed a new 75th anniversary emblem.
  • UPK is a sponsor of Book Benches: A Tribute to Kentucky Authors, a collaborative public art project organized by Arts ConnectLexArts, and The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. A bench designed by artist Lora Gill and inspired by Crystal Wilkinson’s novel The Birds of Opulence will be permanently installed outside our offices on South Limestone Street.
  • A new and expanded second edition of The New History of Kentucky, by James C. Klotter and Craig Thompson Friend, will be released in October, bringing the flagship history of the commonwealth up to date.
  • UPK has initiated two new imprints with partner organizations. We will launch Andarta Books in conjunction with Brécourt Academic, publisher of the journal Global War Studies. Andarta Books will develop new books in military history and launch with books on the Battle of the Atlantic and WWII Yugoslavian prisoners of war appearing next year. Also next year, we will begin publishing a new imprint devoted to Appalachian creative writing with Hindman Settlement School—additional details to come later this year.
  • We were accepted to host one of Lexington Public Library’s Tiny Libraries, which will be permanently installed in front of our offices on South Limestone Street.
  • Horses in History, a new series edited by James C. Nicholson, will launch this fall with Taking Shergar: Thoroughbred Racing’s Most Famous Cold Case by Milton C. Toby. The series will explore the special human-equine relationship, encompassing a broad range of topics, from ancient Chinese polo to modern Thoroughbred racing. From biographies of influential equestrians to studies of horses in literature, television, and film, this series profiles racehorses, warhorses, sport horses, and plow horses in novel and compelling ways.
  • We are partnering with Kentucky Humanities on its Kentucky Reads project for 2018, a statewide literacy initiative centering on Kentucky native Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, All the King’s Men. In conjunction with the program, we will publish Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men: A Reader’s Companion, by Jonathan S. Cullick, a Warren scholar and professor of English at Northern Kentucky University, who will participate in several events as part of Kentucky Reads.

“We’re committed to developing books that explore Kentucky and its citizens from new perspectives and to working in even closer partnership with our consortia and community partners, as they help us better represent the rich geographic and other diversities of the state,” said Salisbury. “We look forward to further strengthening our profile as a relevant and service-oriented operation that allows Kentucky to tell its own story.”

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2018 Judy Gaines Young Literary Awards

 

This year marked the fourth annual presentation of the Judy Gaines Young Book Award since its generous foundation by Dr. Byron Young, a trustee of Transylvania University, to honor his late wife. The award is presented to a writer from the Appalachian region for a book of particular distinction. Crystal Wilkinson won the award in 2017 for her book Birds of Opulence, a title published by the Press.

This year’s winner, judged by Jason Howard, editor of Appalachian Heritage, was none other than UPK author and best-selling poet Kathleen Driskell for her poetry collection, Next Door to the Dead: Poems.

The ceremony also featured the presentation of the Judy Gaines Young Student Writing Award, an award honoring the exceptional creative writing abilities of a Transylvania student. Laura Daley, a senior at Transylvania University and former UPK intern, won the award for her outstanding work in creative nonfiction and poetry, excerpts of which she read at the event.

Also in attendance were two former Kentucky poets laureate, a member of the board of the Kentucky Humanities Council, and several members of UPK staff.

By happy coincidence, the presentation of these prestigious awards fell on World Poetry Day (21 March 2018), and we were thrilled to celebrate the day with two such phenomenal poets!

Next Door to the Dead: Poems is a collection inspired by author Kathleen Driskell’s residence in a disused Louisville, Kentucky church built before the Civil War sitting next to a cemetery. The poems examine the fragility of mortality, the complexity of grief, and the importance of love when confronting loss. Her words breathe life into figures both known and unknown who have long since passed away, reimagining who they might have been based on what they left behind, and encouraging readers to ponder their own complex relationship with death, mourning, and life.

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Kathleen Driskell read several poems from her collection, including “Ars Poetica”, “The Mower”, and “Tchaenhotep: Mummy at the Kentucky Science Center” . Her reading was followed by a short Q&A session, in which she discussed her writing process, her experiences living beside a graveyard, and what projects she is currently undertaking.

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Laura read a memoir and two poems from her repertoire, and all three truly captures the spirit of living in Kentucky, from the beautiful moments spent in nature to the horrifying moments of watching your cousin bite off a snake’s head (yikes!) Her work emphasized the importance of family, and the feeling of belonging somewhere.

Laura Daley has been accepted with funding into the graduate programs of both DePaul University and University of Colorado Boulder. We can’t wait to see what this promising young writer (and former Press member) has in store for the future!

Kathleen is professor of creative writing at Spalding University, and associate editor of the Louisville Review. She has written several books and poetry collections, including Blue Etiquette and Seed Across Snow. To learn more about Kathleen Driskell and her work, check out her blog, and be sure to snag a copy of Next Door to the Dead.

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KBF 2017: A Photoblog

To celebrate Kentucky Humanities‘ 2017 Kentucky Book Fair, we invited one of our current interns, Cassie, to do some reporting from the scene and write about her experience. Read what she (and a few of our authors) had to say—and take a look at what she had to see—below!


This past Saturday marked the 36th annual Kentucky Book Fair, and this was the first time it has ever been held in Lexington! About 180 authors set up tables and promoted their latest books. As a current student at the University of Kentucky and an intern at the University Press of Kentucky, this book fair was a welcome and surprising experience for someone who has never been to one. During my internship, I have seen how much dedication publishers have for the book fair. Promoting their authors and their press—it is whirlwind of exciting events! The following are some fun photos from my time at the book fair and a few, brief interviews with UPK authors.

Having the Kentucky Book Fair at the Kentucky Horse Park during the same weekend as a rodeo was so Kentucky. #onlyinKentucky
Part of the University Press of Kentucky’s booth.

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UPK’s Katie Cross Gibson and UK Libraries‘ Shanna Wilbur staffing the booth.

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The welcome sign! Getting ready to walk through the door.

Author signing room

Entering the author signing room!

Quick Q&A with UPK author Colleen O’Connor Olson

Q: Have you attended the Kentucky Book Fair before?
A: No, I have not.

Q: How do you enjoy it at the fair?
A: I like it! It’s fun to talk about my books. There are lots of people and just so much going on.

Q: Do you have a favorite author in attendance today?
A: I don’t. I’m just checking out new people.

Colleen Olson signing

Olson holding Mammoth Cave Curiosities.

Q&A with UPK author Robert G. Lawson

Q: Have you attended the Kentucky Book Fair before?
A: No.

Q: How do you like it?
A: It’s good! I don’t know if I can stand it until four o’clock. (Editor’s note: Lawson got his wish, as he sold out of copies of Who Killed Betty Gail Brown? and was actually able to leave early!)

Q: Do you have a favorite author in attendance?
A: This guy right here [Richard H. Underwood]. He’s my best friend.

Q: What is your favorite part about the book fair?
A: Seeing everyone. I have had a lot of friends walk by.

Q: What excites you most about your book?
A: It’s out there and people seem to enjoy it…
Richard Underwood: It was one of his first cases back when he was practicing law.

Richard Underwood and Bob Lawson at KBF '17

Authors and signing neighbors Richard Underwood and Robert G. Lawson. UPK just released Lawson’s Who Killed Betty Gail Brown? this month.

Julia Johnson and JGV Collection

Julia Johnson, editor of The New and Collected Poems of Jane Gentry.

MFA intern Rachel Kersey being interviewed

Rachel, UPK intern and UK MFA in Creative Writing student, being interviewed by a Frankfort TV station.
So many authors and attendees—thanks to all who came!

The Universal Language of Food: A Conversation with Aimee Zaring

Recent events have highlighted the need for an understanding of the situation facing refugees throughout the world. Refugees, unlike economic migrants, are forced to leave their countries of origin or are driven out by violence or persecution. As these individuals and their families struggle to adapt to a new culture, the kitchen often becomes one of the few places where they are able to return “home.” Preparing native cuisine is one way they can find comfort in an unfamiliar land, retain their customs, reconnect with their past, and preserve a sense of identity.

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In Flavors from Home: Refugees in Kentucky Share Their Stories and Comfort Foods, author Aimee Zaring uses her many years of expertise working with refugees in the Commonwealth to explore their everyday life, the situations that brought them here, and the food that connects them to home. Zaring shares personal and dramatic accounts of their fight for their lives, as well as heartwarming and fascinating stories of their transition to living in America. Zaring also illustrates the importance of understanding the persecution and struggle that these refugees have gone through and the ability of food to provide a sense of home for them when home is lost.

In order to foster a discussion about the lives of refugees in Kentucky and throughout the country, we’re sharing the following conversation with Aimee Zaring, author of Flavors from Home:


What first interested you to write Flavors from Home and how did that interest help to shape the finished book?

For many years, I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to elder refugees, and we held occasional potlucks where students could share dishes from their homelands. Something magical happened at those potluck dinners. Usually at snack time, the students from each ethnic group would sit together at the same table—but not during potluck days. I was always filled with awe when I looked around the room and saw people from all over the world coming together around food. And I loved seeing how the elders seemed to become kids again as they stood proudly by their dishes and encouraged everyone to “Eat, eat!”

It occurred to me that someone should collect all these delicious recipes before they became altered or “Americanized.” As I began talking to the refugees about their favorite foods, I was reminded that food is never just food; there are always stories and strong memories associated with it. I realized that leaving out the refugees’ stories would be like leaving out the indispensable saffron in the Persian dish tachin. So I decided to make food the unifying element, linking all the stories, just as food in general unifies all of humankind. It’s one of the few things we all share in common.

Describe the circumstances that led a few of the people you interviewed to seek refuge in the United States.

All refugees are immigrants, but not all immigrants are refugees. Refugees flee their home countries out of fear or necessity because of persecution or violence. They usually cannot safely return to their homelands. Economic migrants, on the other hand, choose to leave their home countries to improve their lives, especially to better their economic conditions, and can generally return home when and if they choose.

As one can imagine, war is almost always the culprit. Nearly all the refugees I interviewed for Flavors from Home were driven out by the trickle-down upheaval and chaos resulting from war, military dictatorships, or political uprisings. The first refugee featured in the book came to America as a young girl with her family after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Several refugees in the book are from Myanmar (Burma) and were persecuted for their religious or political beliefs by the country’s longstanding military junta. Two refugees in the book are from Bhutan, the country often referred to as “the happiest in the world,” yet their specific ethnic group (comprised mainly of Hindus) made them a target in the small Buddhist-dominated kingdom. The last chapter in the book features one of my former students, a political activist who spent over two decades of his life in jails because of his enduring fight to defend human rights.

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The kitchen is home for Huong “CoCo” Tran at her Heart & Soy restaurant. (Photo by Julie Johnston)

Which of their stories did you find most uplifting?

Every one of these stories was deeply moving and affected me in a profound way. Sometimes I was moved by the sheer horror of what the individuals had seen or suffered through, for example Nicolas Kiza from Rwanda, who as a young boy traversed the entire Democratic Republic of the Congo by foot, trying to outrun the Rwandan Genocide, because, as he told me, “I’d rather be killed by a lion than my fellow Rwandans.” Sometimes I was moved by the refugees’ fierce determination and strong work ethic and how much they’ve accomplished in the United States with minimal assistance, often knowing little to no English. Huong “CoCo” Tran comes to mind. CoCo spent thirty days at sea after the fall of Saigon. She is now one of Louisville’s most inventive and successful restauranteurs.

Can you explain why some ended up in Kentucky, as opposed to another state?

Kentucky has several official refugee resettlement agencies, including Catholic Charities, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, the International Center of Kentucky, among others, which have been offering services to refugees for decades. Because we have a long tradition of hosting refugees and consequently have refugee populations already established in the area, resettlement agencies will often try to place refugees where they already have family and a built-in support system. The majority of refugees in Kentucky are resettled in Louisville, which has a lot going for it—a relatively low cost of living, good schools, ample job opportunities, a vibrant international community, and a current local government that by and large supports cultural diversity.

What makes food a more tangible connection for some than other aspects of their heritage?

For most refugees, food equals refuge. It offers a safe haven in a strange land filled with foreign customs. Though refugees must adapt to American ways to increase their chances of success (including the formidable task of learning a new language), nothing dictates that they must give up their native foods. Because of the widespread availability of international ingredients—through ethnic groceries, native produce grown in individual or communal gardens, and online shopping—there is no compelling reason to alter their dishes and culinary customs. Cooking and eating is a multi-sensory experience, evoking all sorts of memories and emotions. It’s the easiest and cheapest direct flight back home.

What do you hope Flavors from Home accomplishes, and what do you believe will resonate most with the audience while reading this book?

I hope Flavors from Home will serve as a launching point for dialogue between people from diverse backgrounds who might not otherwise have a reason or opportunity to communicate with each other. Food is something we all share in common and can enjoy together, and often no words are necessary. Food is its own language and can transcend barriers. I’ve seen time and again the goodwill that a fine meal can foster.

I hope, too, that the book will help educate readers on the many different cultures and ethnic groups that have been added to America’s melting pot over the past half-century. And I hope the stories will inspire people to persevere, even when all hope seems lost. Native-born Americans will no doubt walk away from these stories with a greater appreciation of our great nation, especially after viewing it fresh through the eyes of refugees. Yes, there’s a lot that’s wrong with our country, but there is also a lot that’s right, and refugees remind us to never take for granted our most basic freedoms. And, of course, I want people to try these delectable dishes and perhaps even discover, as did I, a whole new world of comfort foods.


Aimee Zaring lives in Louisville, Kentucky where, for more than five years, she has taught ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) at Catholic Charities, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Global LT, and Jefferson County Public Schools.

To learn more about her book, Flavors from Home, visit our website.

This Halloween, Seckatary Hawkins and the Fair and Square Club Solve the Mysteries of Stoner’s Boy and The Gray Ghost

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Long before Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys took center stage in the hearts of young readers as the iconic teen detectives, Seckatary Hawkins and his gang of “Fair and Square” boys were solving mysteries and stopping crimes along the riverbanks of the Ohio River. Beginning in 1918, the members of the Fair and Square Club captured the imagination of thousands of children and adults alike, as they explore the diverse Kentucky landscape in pursuit of adventure, mystery, and doing good. For over three decades, Schulkers’ creation provided inspiration to many young readers, including Harper Lee, who references his work in her iconic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

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The tales of Seckatary Hawkins made their debut in The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking the nation by storm with weekly installments of Stoner’s Boy. The series continued with the exciting sequel, The Gray Ghost, in 1922. These tales soon spread to hundreds of newspapers seck_enquirer_cover-copyacross the country, eventually becoming the first children’s stories broadcast over the radio. By 1926, the popular serials had been turned into books, and over the next thirty-three years, the adventures of Seckatary Hawkins and the members of the Fair and Square Club would not cease to run in US newspapers, as well as inspiring the creation of comic strips, magazines, fan clubs, radio shows, and movies until 1951.

The enduring popularity of these adventure stories is based on a number of factors. Schulkers’ love of children and his realistic characterization of the boys in his stories appeals to adults and adolescents alike. Schulkers stands out for his apt depiction of Kentucky river boy dialogue, which allows the average Kentucky child to relate, as well as adults who can fondly reminisce about their childhoods. For today’s readers, the stories provide a portrait of boyhood in rural Kentucky nearly a hundred years ago, appealing to those who romanticize about a past that they couldn’t be a part of. seck-map-copy

 

Building on his own experiences, Schulkers creates an imaginative and dramatic setting for his river boys to adventure through.  Based on his childhood playgrounds on the riverbanks of the Licking, Kentucky, and Ohio rivers, the mountainous Cumberland River, and the cave country of Versailles, the Seckatary Hawkins gang brought to life for readers what it was like to live and play along those settings.

Building on wholesome values of   courage, honesty, loyalty, and common sense; patriotism, faith, friends, family, and fair play, Seckatary Hawkins and his band of friends teach valuable lessons to young readers. In these stories anyone, no matter their size, age, social status or appearance, can excel and do good things if they have faith in themselves and rely on the virtues of being “Fair and Square.” Teaching effective ways of handling bullies, the adventures of the Fair and Square Club show children a world where they can take charge of unpleasant situations and turn them fun, while still respecting themselves and others.

 

Buy the Books:

UPK_Stoner's Boy  UPK_The Gray Ghost

Congratulations Writing Contest Winners

The Winners of our First Micro-Fiction Contest

First of all, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who submitted an entry to UPK’s very first, Micro-Fiction contest! We had a great time reading through the entries, and it was incredibly difficult to select the grand-prize winner and runners up. But select we did!

Our entrants were asked to write an ekphrastic micro-fiction (300 words, or less!) piece of prose or poetry in response to one of two images:

3 Runners-Up will win 1 Kentucky fiction or poetry book of their choice published by the University Press of Kentucky, and 1 Grand Prize Winner will win a prize pack of 3 Kentucky fiction or poetry books published by the University Press of Kentucky.

View our fiction titles here. Find poetry titles here.

And now, we present to you, the

Grand Prize Winner

Congratulations Patricia Holland of Paris, Kentucky, for her prose piece: “Threads!”

And, congratulations to our three runners-up:

Liz K. (“Thread Baring”)
Sarah H. (“Sewing Not”)
& Rich G. (“And Still You Sew On”)

Threads

My great-grandmother Nanny believed she could foretell the future by studying the clipped threads and bits of fabric that caught on the hem of her skirt whenever she made a new dress.

She taught me to sew and as I pedaled away on her treadle machine, she also taught me to respect her strange, Irish superstitions. To her, those stray threads found on my clothing had landed there to help her analysis my future. Different colored threads meant different things. Black did not mean death. Blank was the color of my true love’s hair. Threads in red, yellow, green or pink were fine unless they were from my wedding dress. My Nanny sang, “Married in red, you’ll wish you were dead/ Married in yellow, you’re ashamed of your fellow/Married in green, you’ll be ashamed to be seen/Married in pink, your spirit will sink/ But when you marry in white, you’ll find the love of your life.”

For a time after she taught me how to sew, I believed that stray threads really could show me a glimpse of my future. Do I still believe that those bits of colored thread have a mystical meaning and power? No, I don’t; but I still remember and treasure Nanny’s long-ago lessons. So as I sew up my white wedding gown and think about the pattern my life will take, I’ve taken a mare’s nest of tangled threads from the bottom drawer of Nanny’s sewing machine and made a small silk drawstring bag to hold them.

I do believe in traditions so I’ll make sure that on my wedding day I’ll have something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. Nanny’s tangled threads are old, my dress is something new. My Irish lace veil will be borrowed and my garter will be blue.

Read the entries from our runners-up after the jump

Continue reading

After The Fall of Saigon: Starting from Scratch in Kentucky

Fall of SaigonToday marks the 40th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, and the end of the Vietnam War. For many Vietnamese families who did not subscribe to the ruling Communist Party’s politics, the withdrawal of American forces also meant their own evacuation from the country they called ‘home.”Huong “CoCo” Tran was among those South Vietnamese civilians for whom Vietnam was no longer safe.

After fleeing her homeland, CoCo started her new life in Louisville, Kentucky. First, packing ice cream cones at the Derby Cone factory, then later, after a lucky break and a lot of hard work, as a restaurateur. A pioneer in the Louisville restaurant industry, she opened Egg Roll Machine—the first Chinese take-out restaurant in the city in 1980, Café Mimosa—the first Vietnamese restaurant in the city in 1986, Zen Garden—the first Asian vegetarian restaurant in the city in 1999, and Zen Tea House—Louisville’s first and only Asian tea house. Her newest ventures are Heart & Soy and Roots—also vegetarian. Flavors from Home - University Press of Kentucky

And though CoCo is unique, her story of courage, perseverance, and self-reinvention is not wholly uncommon. Each year, the United States legally resettles tens of thousands of refugees who have fled their homelands. As these individuals and their families struggle to adapt to a new culture, the kitchen often becomes one of the few places where they are able to return “home.” Preparing native cuisine is one way they can find comfort in an unfamiliar land, retain their customs, reconnect with their past, and preserve a sense of identity.

The following excerpt, from Flavors of Home: Refugees in Kentucky Share Their Stories and Comfort Foods, illuminates the aftermath of the Fall of Saigon through the eyes of a survivor who has redefined what it means to be a Kentuckian and an American.


Flavors from Home - University Press of Kentucky Coco Tran in her Roots and Heart & Soy kitchen

Huong “CoCo” Tran in the kitchen of her restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky.

On April 30, 1975, Communist troops from North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam invaded and overtook Saigon, ending the war and a century of Western influence. CoCo [Tran] found herself in the midst of a mob scene as she tried to make her way to a ferry and return to Saigon. Her older sister, who was unable to leave at the time, asked CoCo to escort her adopted eleven-year-old daughter to freedom and safety. CoCo still recalls, even thirty-odd years later, the horrific accident that occurred just hours after the child was entrusted to her care. With thousands of people fighting their way onto the ferry, CoCo and the young girl were pushed into the water as they boarded. CoCo surfaced. The child never did. CoCo spent the rest of the day and night frantically searching for the little girl. Eventually she had to return to Saigon—alone and defeated. (She never forgot the child and spent the next three decades trying to locate her. Finally, in 2008, she found her niece alive and well in Vietnam with two children of her own.)

Because of CoCo’s father’s politics, the family knew they were no longer safe in Vietnam. On May 2 CoCo and members of her extended family—twelve adults and six children—left Saigon with only some cash and some gold and an extra change of clothing. The only thing they knew for sure was that they would pay any price for freedom.

The family members staggered their individual departures to avoid arousing suspicion and reconnected near Long Hai beach, where American ships were supposed to be waiting to pick up refugees. No ships were in sight. The family negotiated with a fisherman, paying him to transport them on his small, poorly supplied fishing boat toward international waters. CoCo remembers how dark it was that first night at sea and how terrified she was, not knowing where they would end up or whether they would even survive another day. Finally, in the distance, they spotted a merchant ship. Just when they thought their luck had turned, the captain of the Taiwanese merchant ship demanded the exorbitant sum of $9,000 for food and transportation. They gave him everything they had and traveled from port to port, alongside cows and buffalo. They stopped at Thailand, Hong Kong, and Okinawa, but each port refused them entry. At the time, no official refugee program existed to support the people who were fleeing Vietnam. Without relatives or sponsors at these port cities, no country was willing to take in CoCo’s family.

Meanwhile, CoCo’s younger brother, Tran Thien Tran, was in America working tirelessly to find a way to help his stranded kin out on the open seas. He was living in Kentucky, attending the University of Louisville’s J. B. Speed School of Engineering. The family’s hope was that Tran could find them local sponsors so they could join him in the States. After thirty-six days at sea, the Trans finally got word that Taiwan would admit them, on the condition that they not stay on the island for an extended period. Back in the States, sponsoring groups from local churches and the University of Louisville, along with a few individual households, rallied to assist the Tran family.

A grainy photo from the Louisville Times shows a tearful CoCo giving her brother a long-awaited hug at Standiford Field airport. It is hard to reconcile this woman with the confident, relaxed, successful restaurateur sitting across from me now and smiling broadly, brown eyes shining behind maroon-rimmed glasses—the American Dream personified.

For more on the Vietnam War and the International Community in Kentucky: