Lan Cao & Harlan Margaret Van Cao

A novelist - and professor of law  - who has read at Elliott Bay for her well-received earlier books, Monkey Bridge and The Lotus and the Storm, Lan Cao has now collaborated with her daughter, Harlan Margaret Van Cao, on a joint memoir that powerfully and movingly tells a story of one coming to this country as a teenage refugee and making her way, and another, growing up as a daughter of that mother’s experience, who must learn to chart her own way, in Family in Six Tones: A Refugee Mother, An American Daughter (Viking). For this virtual program, they will be joined by their friend, beloved and much-honored writer Monique Truong.

Family in Six Tones is a brilliant duet and a moving exploration of the American immigrant experience. Mother and daughter speak to each other across generations and cultures, revealing and bridging their differences with patience and hard-won trust. Their astonishingly heartfelt dialogue offers a model for sharing the deeper truths that so often get ignored or forgotten.”—Ruth Ozeki.

“Startling and necessary, Family in Six Tones takes us deep into the singular bond of a mother and daughter, fiercely connected by a love wrought out of loss and the will to create anew. This memoir will forever trouble the water of the American Dream, complicating it and clarifying it of the myths and masks of survival, assimilation, and success.  It reminds us that Vietnamese refugees, like so many who call this country home, are not amnesiacs. We carry within us memories of faraway places and discarded lives. Thus our dreams here are haunted, unsettled, and yet we still dream.”—Monique Truong.

Presented by Elliott Bay Book Company in association with Kandelia (formerly Vietnamese Friendship Association,, Friends of Little Saigon (, and DVAN/Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network ( 

Family in Six Tones: A Refugee Mother, an American Daughter By Lan Cao, Harlan Margaret Van Cao Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781984878168
Published: Viking - September 15th, 2020

Virtual Event
Friday, September 25, 2020 - 6:00pm