we were meant to be a gentle people.


:: a memoir in text + image (+ song) ::
:: by dao strom ~ forthcoming SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2015 ::

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+ read/see excerpts in :
Minor Literatures - "[Fragments from the Encyclopedia of Censorship]"
Numero Cinq - "Triangulations from the Diaspora"
3:AM Magazine - "(notes) from the other shore"

+ listen :

(hear more)

Advance Praise

"Dao Strom's We Were Meant to be a Gentle People is an astounding work of fracture and reconciliation. Filled with provocative images, sharp juxtapositions, and eloquent prose, this poetic memoir challenges our assumptions about aesthetic form and preconceived racialized, gendered notions of Vietnamese refugees in America. So many of Strom's lines and lyrics and pictures are already blazing through my head like lost stars searching for a sky. A poignant and powerful work."

~ Bao Phi, spoken word artist and poet (Sông I Sing)

"In her stunning multi-media memoir, We Were Meant To Be A Gentle People, Dao Strom travels across oceans and decades in search of ever-elusive answers about her origins. As she leads us through this strangely beautiful excavation, sifting through fragments of memory and received history, the questions she raises about her past unsettle the ways in which we understand our own stories. The very notion of memory becomes more open-ended, mysterious, and compelling when we see such a gifted archeologist of the self at work on the page."

~ Jacob Slichter, author (So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star), musician (drummer, Semisonic), blogger (

"Dao Strom has crafted a gorgeous memoir with prose, poetry, photos, and music—eclectic, authentic, disarming and utterly heart-wrenching. I could not imagine this narrative in any other way. A brilliant success on every level."

~ Andrew X. Pham, author (Catfish and Mandala & The Eaves of Heaven)

Praise for previous books
~for Grass Roof, Tin Roof :
“Strom’s writing is stunning: powerful yet modulated, impressionistic yet substantial. Her clear ability, combined with the important stories she has to tell, mark her as a force to be reckoned with.” -The Washington Post

"There is little sentiment here. Instead, a cool, appraising eye is at work… Strom covers a lot of ground: wartime Saigon, post-hippiedom rural California, the ethnic neighborhoods of San Diego. Her lyrical-analytical prose is especially lithe in its reading of character, cultural displacement and the after-effects of war… It feels like the work of a major writer.” -Seattle Times

~for The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys :
“Quietly beautiful, Strom's stories are hip without being ironic.” -The New Yorker

“Quietly commanding in voice and perspective... This illuminating and subtly daring collection can be read on many levels.” -Booklist

“ acute, often painful, exploration of identity, displacement, and sexuality.” -Venus Zine

“The title itself is worthy of erasing ‘battle of the sexes’ altogether from our vocabulary, as it proves so crude and destructive next to Strom’s naturalistic parsing of the tensions, desires, and subtle power shifts present between men and women, who are no more responsible for the order of things than boys and girls... Gentle Order is about these things and much more - the barbs and sudden intimacies of female friendship, the pitfalls of love and independence - and it’s all written with a feeling of subtle discovery, as if even our most ugly and damning weaknesses, be they narcissistic, indecisive, jealous, or mean, are somehow borne out of innocence.” -The Austin Chronicle

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We Were Meant To Be a Gentle People is a memoir in text + image + song. In this unique work of hybrid forms, author/musician Dao Strom navigates the spaces between shores, mother and father, two cultures.

The daughter of writers, Strom fled Vietnam with her mother at the end of the war. It was not until years later that she learned her father was still alive and had spent a decade in Communist “reeducation” camps as persecution for his work as a writer in the pre-1975 era of Saigon. This rift—caught between the forward-looking mother who severed ties with the past, and the only tenuous presence of a father who could not turn away from the past—is the initiating ethos behind this memoir, which renders itself also as an experiment in literary multimedia, combining text, image, and song to express the nuances and buried emotions of aftermath. Strom juxtaposes documentary images next to family memorabilia to ruminate on the intersection of personal and collective histories. She travels between the Pacific coast and the Champa ruins of Viet Nam to capture original photographic images that re-imagine folk myths. Her autobiographical essays are candid at the same time they are enigmatic, playing with white space and the shapes the text makes on the page.

The book, We Were Meant To Be A Gentle People, is accompanied by a music album, East/West, which explores two “geographies.” The book's "chapters" correspond with song titles on the music album, and lyrics are interwoven amid the essays and fragments. The result is a multidimensional work that draws disparate “voices” together into one confluent, challenging whole.

We Were Meant To Be A Gentle People is available as a full-color, soft cover, perfectbound book, in regular edition, and in a limited art edition with die-cut gatefold dust jacket.

East/West is available in cd and digital formats.

See store for details.

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TITLE: We Were Meant To Be a Gentle People
GENRE: Memoir/Essays/Multimedia/Asian-American Literature
AUTHOR: Dao Strom
PAGES: 200
RETAIL PRICE: $24.00 (reg. edition) // $35.00 (art edition)
ISBN: 978-0-9909555-1-1
RELEASE DATE: October 20, 2015

Paperdoll Works publishes via Martin Paul Moser Productions. Distribution:

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For the Book: Amazon / Powell’s (Portland OR) / / (Small Press Distribution)
For the Album: CDBaby / iTunes / Bandcamp

LitCrawl - Oct 17, 2015 (San Francisco, CA)
Late Night Library/All Fines Forgiven - Oct 23, 2015 (Clinton Street Theater, Portland OR)

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Dao performed music, prose, and visual projection related to this project for Tell It Slant Reading Series' Fourth Genre Night on 5/12/15 in Portland, OR (@ Alberta Street Pub) :

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