Interview - Monique Truong

Born in 1968, Monique Truong is a Vietnamese American author who embraces writing and storytelling as a way to build empathy, subvert expectations, and spark dialogue. She grew up in Vietnam but at age six came to the U.S. as a refugee, arriving at Camp Pendleton, in California. After her family found a sponsor, they relocated again—this time to Boiling Springs, North Carolina, where Truong experienced constant bullying and racial discrimination. In middle school, her family moved to Centerville, Ohio, and then to Alief, Texas as Truong entered high school. Although Alief was racially diverse, Truong still saw herself as an outsider and struggled to mesh with other Vietnamese American students. For Truong and her parents, food was an essential connection to Vietnam ⁠— they would drive for hours to find the ingredients to prepare traditional meals. Facing racism and bullying at school, Truong also found solace at the local library. After graduating high school, Truong attended Yale University as a literature major. Here, she not only gained a better understanding of her own identity as an Asian American, but also grew passionate about America’s treatment of Asian Americans and other minority groups as a whole. This later pushed her to study law at Columbia Law School. However, practicing law in an unhealthy work environment took an intense physical and emotional toll, so Truong gradually transitioned out of law and into writing. As she set down her new career path, Truong interacted closely with other writers in organizations such as the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Center for Fiction, and Powderkeg. So far, she has written three bestselling, award-winning novels: The Book of Salt (2003), Bitter in the Mouth (2010), and The Sweetest Fruits (2019). In these novels, Truong explores complex themes such as race, family, and voice. She also conducted extensive historic research to reach back in time and honor the stories of those who have traditionally been overlooked. In addition to novels, Truong also writes essays, choral, and theatrical works, and serves on multiple literary arts organizations. She hopes to publish a work of speculative fiction in the future.

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