Review: In poetry and prose, an artist imposes his own rules as he strikes against racism


Truong Tran is the author of “The Other’s Book”. Photo: Kaya Press

“You resist performance. of otherness. writing this book, “writes Truong Tran in” The Other’s Book: Small in Comparison, “adding,” You insist on telling your reader. that it is not outrage. the performance of anger. but rather anger. the clenching of the fist.

“Book of the Other” – a collection of “essays. prose. poems. and antipoems ”- is a closed fist. This is a text study designed to break the contract between the reader and the author speaker, claiming that it is the reader who has explanations, rather than the other way around.

“Dear white.

that you are neither singular nor universal. friend or foe. you will see yourself in what I wrote. as only you can see yourself.

Divided into eight sections (from “the book of silence” to “the book of the beginning” and “a kind of afterword”), “Book of the Other” is presented in fragments, a few short and longer blocks of text, and some cascading stanzas, written without capitalization or punctuation other than the period. The effect is staccato and hypnotic, as if each phrase were tilted forward, pointed at.

“You won’t expose yourself. you say in this book. you say that out loud. you think you are looking for. you think you know. but the fact is. I’m looking at you.”

“Book of the Other” by Truong Tran. Photo: Kaya Press

The backbone of the job is Tran’s experience as a teacher and his refusal to take tenure-track positions at an unnamed university; in at least one case ignored for a white male with less teaching experience:

“That’s absolutely true, you have been a finalist for three tenure-track positions at this same university where you have taught as a lecturer for the past twelve years three times you have been a finalist in the past twelve years. and three times you have been refused a permanent position, it is absolutely true ”

While this history and the institutional racism found in academia are at the heart of the book, Tran tells Kaya Press that the “Other’s Book” is not about academia per se. “The metaphorical violence I’m talking about ties in with the physical violence we’re seeing right now. Is it about academia? No. It’s about living. And, at the same time, it’s strongly implied throughout the book that its main narrative was inspired by real-life events.

Tran is the decorated author of six books of poetry, as well as an artist monograph and a children’s book, although he is perhaps primarily a visual artist. The references to his art are added to the “Book of the Other”, adding a thrilling dimension to Google, and which alludes to a literary kinship with a transgender background in the sphere of artistic essay. Tran’s genre challenge, however, is an important part of this book as a whole: by intentionally opposing the rules of accepted forms, he demands that they expand, rather than causing his words to contract. to fit inside. “This book is about the possibilities of writing,” Tran told Kaya Press. “The book is prose, poems, antipoems and essays because it is important that as an immigrant writing in English be able to make such a claim.”

Book of the Other
By Truong Tran
(Kaya Press; 236 pages; $ 18.95)

Author event

City Lights presents Truong Tran in conversation with Muriel Leung of Kaya Press: Virtual event. 6 p.m. 1st December. Free. Registration required.

  • Genevieve Walker

    Genevieve Walker is a New York-based non-fiction writer and editor. His work has been published in Hodinkee, Take Shape, GQ, Bon Appétit, Real Life, Guernica and others.


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