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Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence

Monique Truong

2023 Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence Reading

The reading will be on Tuesday March 28 @ 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm at Moeser Auditorium in Hill Hall and will be open to the public.

Cohosted by the UNC Asian American Center.


Biography

In 1975, six-year-old Monique Truong and her mother left Vietnam as refugees. They came to America and were later joined, after the Fall of Saigon, by her father. They settled in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, before moving, again, to Ohio then Texas. She went on to graduate from Yale University and Columbia University School of Law before working as an intellectual property lawyer.

This forced removal from home—this wandering—has influenced a heartfelt sense of longing that colors all of Ms. Truong’s creative work and has shaped her into the great cataloguer of diasporic malaise and beauty. She explores family and food and history with the grace only lived experience can provide.

Lucky for us, in the late 1990s, while editing Watermark, an anthology of Vietnamese American poetry and prose, Ms. Troung was inspired to write a short story about a man named Binh. The story, “Seeds”, would eventually grow into her bestselling award-winning first novel, Body of Salt, which follows Binh’s experience in Paris as a cook for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. The story blends time, space, history, and cultures into a singular flowing narrative with wide-ranging power. Versatile, profound, tender, beautiful, and delicious, it announced Ms. Truong as one of the world’s most original artists and thinkers.

Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review of Body of Salt, had this to say about Ms. Truong’s strengths: “Truong’s supple prose is permeated with sensual detail, reminiscent of A Debt to Pleasure in its evocation of the erotic possibilities of food. But it is her intuitive understanding of the condition of exile—’the pure, sea salt sadness of the outcast’—that infuses her novel with richness and beauty.”

Her second novel, Bitter in the Mouth, set in North Carolina, outside Charlotte, tackles identity and inherited trauma, challenging our typical “Black and White” understanding of race in the South. Another layered and complex book, it’s also delicious, using food and taste as a storytelling engine.

A third novel, The Sweetest Fruits, released in 2019, is another impressive feat of historical fiction and innovative storytelling, this time regarding the globetrotting exploits of Lafcadio Hearn, a famed translator.

In the twenty years since Body of Salt stormed the literary stage, Ms. Truong has received many honors, including the Dos Passos Prize, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, the American Academy of Art and Letters Rosenthal Family Foundation Award, and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop Van Lier Fellowship.

Monique Truong has written choral works and operatic poems for the stage. Her debut children’s book, Mai’s Áo Dài, is forthcoming.

As one reviewer said, “Beauty has come to be expected of Monique Truong’s prose, words brimming and vibrant, her evocative expressions and thoughtful sequencing in storytelling

remarkable. But there is also substance in Truong’s writing, a pursuit of recovering voices erased from history — stories that cannot be told and that are at times overwritten.”


About the Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence Program

The Department of English and Comparative Literature proudly announces the creation of the Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence Program.  This program will build upon our department’s long-standing commitment to the value of a writer-in-residence program that spans over two decades. Through the generosity of the Morgan Writer-in-Residence Program (1993-2012) and the Distinguished Writer-in-Residence Program (2013-2015), our department has brought significant contemporary writers to campus to meet with students and faculty, to visit classes, and to give readings, talks, and symposia. The Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence Program affirms and continues that tradition. It will ensure that our students continue to be inspired by interactions with important writers of our time.  Furthermore, it will greatly enrich the intellectual climate and lively literary culture on Carolina’s campus.

The Department of English and Comparative Literature heartily thanks the Hanes family for its generous sponsorship of the program.  The program honors the late Frank Borden Hanes, Sr., (Class of 1942).  Mr. Hanes has long been a gracious supporter of Creative Writing at Carolina and has made gifts with powerful lasting impact.  He endowed the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship, which brings highly promising young writers to the Creative Writing Program, and he also supported the teaching and creativity of our Creative Writing faculty in countless ways.  Mr. Hanes himself was a passionate author, a proud and loyal alumnus, and an outstanding citizen of our state.


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