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The Book of Salt
Cover of The Book of Salt
The Book of Salt

"[He] came to us through an advertisement that I had in desperation put in the newspaper." It began captivatingly for those days: 'Two American ladies wish..." It was these lines in The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book that inspired The Book of Salt. In Paris, 1934, Bính has accompanied his employers, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, to the train station for their departure to America. His own destination is unclear: will he go with "the Steins," stay in France, or return to his native Vietnam? Bính has fled his homeland in disgrace, leaving behind his malevolent charlatan of a father and his self-sacrificing mother. For five years, he has been the live-in cook at the famous apartment at twenty-seven rue de Fleurus. Before Bính's decision is revealed, his mesmerizing narrative catapults us back to his youth in French-colonized Vietnam, his years as a galley hand at sea, and his days turning out fragrant repasts for the doyennes of the Lost Generation.

"[He] came to us through an advertisement that I had in desperation put in the newspaper." It began captivatingly for those days: 'Two American ladies wish..." It was these lines in The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book that inspired The Book of Salt. In Paris, 1934, Bính has accompanied his employers, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, to the train station for their departure to America. His own destination is unclear: will he go with "the Steins," stay in France, or return to his native Vietnam? Bính has fled his homeland in disgrace, leaving behind his malevolent charlatan of a father and his self-sacrificing mother. For five years, he has been the live-in cook at the famous apartment at twenty-seven rue de Fleurus. Before Bính's decision is revealed, his mesmerizing narrative catapults us back to his youth in French-colonized Vietnam, his years as a galley hand at sea, and his days turning out fragrant repasts for the doyennes of the Lost Generation.

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About the Author-
  • Monique Truong was born in Saigon in 1968 and moved to the United States at age six. She graduated from Yale University and the Columbia University School of Law, going on to specialize in intellectual property. Truong coedited the anthology Watermark: Vietnamese American Poetry and Prose. Her first novel, The Book of Salt, a national bestseller, has been awarded the 2003 Bard Fiction Prize, the Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award, and the Young Lions Fiction Award, among other honors. Granting Truong an Award of Excellence, the Vietnamese American Studies Center at San Francisco State University called her "a pioneer in the field, as an academic, an advocate, and an artist." Truong now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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  • AudioFile Magazine Binh, the Vietnamese cook for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Paris in the early 1930s, provides the point of view for Truong's lush, evocative novel about the pains and rewards of food, literature, and homoerotic passion. Binh is a complex and demanding persona, and narrator Paul Boehmer conveys his voice masterfully, capturing, as the author does, the sensibility of the character rather than his accent. Boehmer's clear, steady rendition bridges a narrative that moves back and forth from past to present, Vietnam to Paris, dwelling with sumptuous pleasure on a feast of exotic and distinctive tastes, scents, and images. Narrated with grace and precision, this production rewards both the ear and the imagination. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award (c) AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine
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The Book of Salt
Monique Truong
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