Awardee: Dao Strom

Literature, 2016

Dao Strom is a writer and musician based in Portland, OR. Her work explores hybridity through melding disparate “voices”—written, sung, visual—to contemplate the intersection of personal and collective histories. She is the author of two fiction books, Grass Roof, Tin Roof and The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys, praised by The New Yorker as being “quietly beautiful […] hip without being ironic.” Her latest project is an experimental memoir, We Were Meant To Be A Gentle People, accompanied by a music album, East/West, in which, according to the LA Review of Books, “Strom embraces the fragment as the smallest reliable unit of truth.” Strom has received support from the Regional Arts Culture & Council, Oregon Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, James Michener Fellowship and the Nelson Algren Award. She was born in Viet Nam and grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California.

Project: Postwar Tablefruit

Postwar Tablefruit is a book that draws from Dao Strom’s experience as a woman of color and child of a “postwar” era. Strom’s perspective is anchored in growing up Vietnamese in America in the 1980s, a time of “postwar” silence and forgetting. Juxtaposing prose, lyric fragments, and visual elements, Postwar Tablefruit seeks to expose silences, shadows, the obscuring of history, and to remember—or discern—the nature of what was buried. One essay, “Iowa,” looks at being a person of color in a prestigious writing program. Another essay, “Tablefruit Diatribes,” uses fragments to reflect on power dynamics, especially regarding ideas of the Asian feminine. In addition to the book, there will be a music component to the project.