Monique Truong

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Ho Chi Minh City,
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Monique Truong is a renowned Vietnamese American author and novelist who achieved international acclaim with her debut novel, ‘The Book of Salt.’ Truong’s first love had always been writing, despite his academic training as an intellectual property advocate. However, fearful of failing to make a living from creative writing, she pursued a career in law in order to support herself financially. However, it appears as though fate had other plans for her. Truong was inspired to leave her legal practice and pursue a career in writing after attending a poetry reading session. She has published two novels to date, ‘The Book of Salt’ and ‘Bitter in the Mouth,’ both of which have garnered positive reader reviews and made it to the bestseller list. Truong’s writing style is unique in that she effortlessly weaves tales from her life experiences. As a child of war and later a refugee, Truong’s early years were difficult as she struggled to adjust to a new country, new culture, and new language. However, things improved for her and her family over time. Apart from writing novels, Truong has contributed to a variety of publications and served as a fellow and writer-in-residence for a variety of foundations.

Childhood & Adolescence

Monique Truong was born in Saigon, South Vietnam, on May 13, 1968. Vietnam was undergoing a difficult period at the time of her birth, with the Vietnam War at its height.

Truong moved to the United States as a refugee with her mother when she was six years old. Her father, who was employed as an executive by a multinational oil company, remained behind, but only briefly. He, too, fled to the United States after Saigon was defeated by communist forces.

The family spent a brief time in a relocation camp in California before relocating to North Carolina for four years. They then relocated to Kettering, Ohio, for four years before settling in Houston, Texas.

Young Truong graduated from a high school in Houston, Texas, after completing her elementary studies. She later enrolled in undergraduate studies at Yale University. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1990.

Truong discovered her passion for writing during her time at Yale University. She continued her studies, however, and earned a degree from Columbia Law School.

Career of Monique

Truong began her career in a private law firm as a litigation associate. She quickly realized, however, that law was not for her, as writing was her true passion.

Barbara Tran’s poetry reading in New York reignited her passion for writing and gave her the push she’d been looking for. The reading session had such an effect on her that she abandoned her legal career and began writing seriously.

She collaborated on an anthology with Barbara Tran, co-founder of Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW). As a result, AAWW published ‘Watermark: Vietnamese American Poetry and Prose’ in 1998.

Truong submitted a story written during her college years for inclusion while working on ‘Watermark.’ However, the identical proposal was rejected. Undaunted, she began writing another story, which became the second chapter of her blockbuster debut novel, ‘The Book of Salt’.

Truong took two months leave from her legal practice to concentrate on her book, as juggling a legal practice and writing a book proved to be quite hectic.

On the recommendation of a co-editor of ‘Watermark,’ she applied for a Van Lier fellowship, which provided her with a cash grant to cover her rent, daily expenses, and school loans.

Truong published her first novel, ‘The Book of Salt,’ in 2003. The novel followed a fictional gay Vietnamese cook, Binh, as he struggled to decide whether to relocate to the United States with his employers, whom he had been serving for years, or to remain in Paris or return to his hometown in Vietnam.

‘The Book of Salt’ was a sensational public success. Not only was it a national bestseller, but it also garnered a slew of prestigious awards, including the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award.

Truong began writing professionally following the success of ‘The Book of Salt.’ She did, however, occasionally pursue law practice because it provided her with the financial independence that many authors and writers lack and enabled her to pay her bills and rent.

Her second novel, ‘Bitter in the Mouth,’ was published by Random House in August 2010. It was a stark contrast to her debut novel, which focused on her childhood in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

Linda Hammerrick, the protagonist, suffered from synesthesia, a condition in which one type of stimulation elicits another.

‘Bitter in the Mouth’ was more relevant to Truong’s life because it reminded her of the difficult period of her childhood following her relocation to the United States. The character of Hammerrick embodies the difficulty of adjusting to a new environment, learning a new language, and becoming a part of a new culture.

Apart from writing books, Truong contributed to the New York Times T’Magazine’s monthly online food column, ‘Ravenous.’ Additionally, she has written articles for Real Simple, Town & Country, Condé Nast Traveler, Allure, Saveur, Food & Wine, Gourmet, the Times of London (Saturday Magazine), and Time Magazine (Asia edition).

She has served as a prominent member of the Authors Guild’s Board of Directors, the Creative Advisory Council for Hedgebrook, the Bogliasco Fellowship Advisory Committee, and the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network’s Advisory Committee.

She has served as a writer-in-residence for a number of foundations over the years, including Akrai, Civitella Ranieri, Lannan, Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, Hedgebrook, Ucross, Sea Change, Liguria Study Center for the Arts and Humanities, Fundacion Valparaiso, Ledig House International Writers’ Residency, and Santa Maddalena.

She has previously been a PEN/Robert Bingham Fellow in 2004, a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University in 2007 and 2008, and a Guggenheim Fellow in 2010. She was the Collegium’s inaugural Visiting Writer.

Currently, she is scheduled to serve as a United States-Japan Creative Artist Fellow in Tokyo in 2015. She will serve as the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence at Baruch College in 2016.

Significant Works of Monique

Truong first gained national attention with her debut novel, ‘The Book of Salt,’ which became a national bestseller.

Truong deftly explored the themes of sexuality, national identity, race, and migration through the lens of the protagonist Binh and his decision to either stay or move on.

The book was a smashing success, garnering numerous awards and accolades.

Her second novel, ‘Bitter in the Mouth,’ was as successful as her debut. The novel is set in the fictional town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina, and depicts Truong’s troubled childhood as a wartime child.

It received several awards and honors and was inducted into the category of Best Fiction Book by various bookselling behemoths.

Awards and Accomplishments

Truong’s debut novel, ‘The Book of Salt,’ was a critical and commercial success, earning her numerous awards, including the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the Bard Fiction Prize, the Stonewall Book Award-Barvara Gittings Literature Award, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles National Literary Award, the Association for Asian American Studies Poetry/Prose Award, and the Seventh Annual Asian American Literary Award.

Her second novel, ‘Bitter in the Mouth,’ was named to Barnes & Noble’s list of the 25 Best Fiction Books of 2010, to Hudson Booksellers’ list of the 10 Best Fiction Books of 2010, and to the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association’s adult fiction Honor Book list.

Personal History and Legacies

Though Truong is married, little information about her personal life or husband is available.

Estimated Net Worth

Monique Truong is a wealthy novelist who is ranked among the most popular novelists. Monique Truong’s net worth is estimated to be around $1.5 million, based on our analysis of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.

Trivia

Interestingly, Truong’s debut novel, ‘The Book of Salt,’ was inspired by ‘The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook.’ She was astounded to learn that Toklas and Stein employed two Indochinese men as cooks.

Despite being a national bestseller, Truong lacks a variety of fundamental life skills, including riding a bicycle, reading a map, and driving a car.