Photo by Haruka Sakaguchi
Born in Saigon, South Vietnam, Monique Truong came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1975. She is a writer based now in Brooklyn, New York.
Her first novel, The Book of Salt (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), was a national bestseller and the recipient of the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, Bard Fiction Prize, PEN/Robert W. Bingham Fellowship, Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award, PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles National Literary Award, Association for Asian American Studies Poetry/Prose Award, and an Asian American Literary Award. In 2003, The Book of Salt was a New York Times Notable Fiction Book, a Chicago Tribune Favorite Fiction Books, a Village Voice’s 25 Favorite Books, and a Miami Herald’s Top 10 Books, among other citations.
Her second novel, Bitter in the Mouth (Random House, 2010), received the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Rosenthal Family Foundation Award and was named in 2010 as a 25 Best Fiction Books by Barnes & Noble, a 10 Best Fiction Books by Hudson Booksellers, and the adult fiction Honor Book by the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association.
Her third novel, The Sweetest Fruits, (Viking Books, 2019), received the 2020 John Gardner Fiction Book Award and named a best fiction of 2019 by Publishers Weekly, Mental Floss, and Popmatters.
Co-authored with celebrity fashion designer Thai Nguyen with illustrations by NYT bestselling Dung Ho (Eyes that Kiss in the Corners), her debut children’s picture book, Mai’s Áo Dài, is forthcoming Fall of 2024 from Caitlyn Dlouhy Books at Atheneum Books, Simon & Schuster Publishers.
Truong is the editor of Vom Lasterleben am Kai (C.H. Beck, 2017), a collection of reportage by Lafcadio Hearn, a.k.a. Koizumi Yakumo, the subject of her novel The Sweetest Fruits. She is also a contributing co-editor of Watermark: An Anthology of Vietnamese American Poetry & Prose (Asian American Writers’ Workshop, 1998) and the forthcoming 25th anniversary edition (Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network Series, Texas Tech University Press, 2023).
Truong contributes essays, often about food or memory or both, to O Magazine, Real Simple, Marie Claire, Town & Country, Condé Nast Traveler, Allure, Saveur, Food & Wine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and its T Magazine for which she wrote “Ravenous,” a monthly online food column, The Times of London (Saturday Magazine), Time Magazine (Asia edition), and other publications.
In collaboration with the composer/performer/sound artist Joan La Barbara, Truong has written the lyrics for a choral work, a song cycle, and is at work on a libretto for an opera inspired by Joseph Cornell and Virginia Woolf. For composer Shih-Hui Chen and director and scenic designer Doug Fitch, Truong has written a chamber operatic poem premiering April 2022 at the Asia Society Texas Center. With composer and conductor Francisco J. Núñez, she’ll premiere a choral work for young voices in May 2022 in New York City.
A Guggenheim Fellow, U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Fellow in Tokyo, Princeton University’s Hodder Fellow, Visiting Writer at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, and Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence at Baruch College, Truong received the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature in 2021.
She has been in residence at Djerassi, Akrai Residency, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Lannan Foundation, Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, Hedgebrook, Ucross Foundation, Sea Change Residency, Liguria Study Center for the Arts and Humanities (Bogliasco), Fundacion Valparaiso, Ledig House International Writers’ Residency, and Santa Maddalena Foundation.
Truong serves on the Board of Directors of the Authors Registry, the Creative Advisory Council for Hedgebrook, and the Advisory Council for the Authors Guild. Previously (March 2011-March 2023), she served on the Authors Guild Council and was its vice president beginning in 2018. For PEN America, she was the Chair of the Literary Awards Committee (2014-2017) and a member of the Advisory Council.
Truong is also an intellectual property attorney, but she hopes that you will not hold that against her. When she is not writing, which is most of the time, she cooks and takes naps. She lacks many basic life skills such as knowing how to drive a car, ride a bicycle, and has only recently learned how to read a map. She has been known to walk long distances, especially if there is a very good bakery located at the end of that walk. The only thing that she really likes to exercise is her right to vote.