Phuoc Thi Minh Tran
As a retired librarian, a respected storyteller, a 2023 Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon author, and an award-winning author, Trần Thị Minh Phước has shared her experiences and knowledge of Vietnamese culture at various cultural events, storytelling programs, conferences, communities, libraries, universities, colleges, and schools throughout the state and beyond.
Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
The All About Countries series from Tuttle Publishing are very popular and well received, so it’s time to add the All About Vietnam to this award-winning series. As always, there is a need for multicultural children’s book and All About Vietnam is perfect for story time at home or in a classroom. The charming full-color illustrations and photographs bring Vietnam's history and culture vividly to life. Most of the immigrant children and families I have encountered at the library or communities are eager to learn about their culture. They probably see the beauty of their roots and heritage.
With my rich personal heritage and my many years as a well-respected librarian and storyteller, I would have an excellent grasp on what makes such a good book like All About Vietnam and what I want to share from my culture for the enjoyment of people of all cultures. With a great selection of photographs and beautiful illustrations, children and their families will get an inside look at Vietnam’s vibrant culture while learning through cultural and fun games, songs, and activities. Highlights of the book include a brief look at the nation’s history from its mythological beginnings to its famous Hung Kings and heroes, tours of picturesque Saigon, Ha Long Bay and many colorful and impressive places, make authentic Vietnamese dishes, experience the sights and sounds of the Tết New Year celebration, learn about Vietnamese manners and superstitions, and taste exotic tropical fruits. Last but not least, everyone can travel to Vietnam without leaving home and a passport.
Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
It depends on the topic, but mostly my writings are from my common knowledge, imagination, and experiences. I do research if needed for some specific and historical facts and contexts. All About Vietnam is my third book with Tuttle Publishing so I am working well with the editorial team and my same illustrators. Authenticity and accuracy are the foundations of this book. I would study carefully on the sensitive issues, such as geographical location, name, terminology that might offend Vietnamese overseas when writing. I spent about 6-8 months on research. Overall a vision for how the text and art will be joined must be worked out among the author, editor, and illustrators.
Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories was my debut book and I had to learn a lot from the publishing industry. The publisher wanted a proposal of stories and a brief (1-2 lines or so) synopsis of each so that the publishing committee can see their appeal and significance in Vietnamese culture. As you know that there are three regions in Vietnam and each story should reflect accordingly from clothing to food to terminology to characters as well. That’s why I would love to find the illustrator/s who have a great and ample knowledge of our culture and traditions. It took me more than two years to find the right and perfect illustrators.
Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
At very young age and until now, two of my favorite French authors are Charles Perrault and Jean de la Fontaine. Perrault’s collection Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye (Stories of Mother Goose) is very influential. I love his popular tales including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Puss in Boots. I love Jean de la Fontaine’ s extremely famous story Le Corbeau et le Renard (the Crow and the Fox.)
Today, I love the authors who write about memoirs and folktales such as Teresa Bateman, Hanna Cha, Judy Goldman, and Kao Kalia Yang, just to name a few.
Has a library or librarian impacted your life or writing life?
Alhambra Civic Center Public Library in California was the very first library I visited in America. These words still stuck with me until today: “Rental Best Seller Books, $1 for 2 -week rental.” I thought I would be charged for a library card and books, and I couldn’t afford it. I never asked the lady in nice clothing sitting on the reference desk due to my language barrier and my shyness. But in my mind, I always dreamed of becoming like her one day working in the library. I left California without having a library card and never checked out a single book during my short stay there. About two decades later, I became the first Vietnamese librarian in Minnesota working at the Hennepin County Library. I have shared my experiences and knowledge of Vietnamese culture at various events, storytelling programs, libraries, and schools throughout the state. In addition, I had dedicated my time to helping new immigrants transition into life in America.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Traveling with my precious family and Storigami.
Never having a dull moment when all of us travel together to visit new places, learn about its people and culture, and have fun.
Folding papers while telling a story because each fold has a twist and turn that mesmerizes the audience and youngsters. My favorite storigami is “My Journey in Search for Freedom.”
Favorite place to go to in Minnesota?
I was fond of the ocean, the lake, the beach, the morning breeze, the softly- moving palm trees, and definitely the long walk across the wet sand. Running as fast as I could back to the shore before the waves crashed into the shore and chasing after the seagulls were my most favorite and fun things to do. That’s why Duluth is our family favorite place to visit every summer.
Where can readers find you online?