Set in the 1930s in Paris, Monique Truong’s The Book of Salt speaks to the experience of marginalized individuals. The protagonist, Binh, works as a cook for the famous Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Throughout this text, Binh struggles with his loneliness due to the language barrier that sets him apart from strangers, his Mesdames, and anyone else in between. In addition to the language barrier, Binh is also Queer, Asian, and of a lower social status; these three identities intersect to make him who he is, yet the rest of Paris cannot appreciate his many parts because they do not fit in with the identities of privilege. Binh’s consciousness of otherness is apparent in how he carries himself in his role of servitude.  Beautifully and tragically written, The Book of Salt will move you to tears of joy and sadness.

 

"All my employers provide me with a new moniker, whether they know it or not. None of them- and this I do not exaggerate- has called me by my given name. Their mispronunciations are endless an epic poem all their own. GertrudeStein's just happen to rhyme. Every time she says my name, I say it as well. Hearing it said correctly, if only in my head, is a desire that I cannot shake. I readjust and realign the tones that are missing or are sadly out of place. I am lonesome all the same for another voice to say my name, punctuated with a note of anticipation, a sigh of relief, a warm breath of affection" (Truong 32).

The Book of Salt by Monique Truong