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SouthBound: Monique Truong On Life As A Refugee, The Taste Of Words, And The Best Barbecue Joint In The World

Monique Truong came to America as a 7-year-old girl — a Vietnamese refugee whose family landed in small-town North Carolina.

monique truong
Photo by Haruka Sakaguchi

She told me in our conversation that the three years she spent in Boiling Springs shaped so much of her life. It’s where she first learned English, where she first faced prejudice and where she started to develop her identity.

Truong has written three novels, including one called “Bitter In the Mouth” that recalls that time through fiction.

I first ran across her in an essay where she described her love for Bridges’, one of the great American barbecue joints, located in Shelby, North Carolina, near where she grew up.

But even that love came by an indirect path. In so many ways in her life, Truong has taken the long way home.

Show notes

Other music in this episode

  • Soft & Furious, "The Secret"
  • Ketsa, "Haunted Past"
Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary that airs every Monday. He's the author of "The Elephant in the Room," a memoir about life as an overweight man in a growing America. He spent 23 years as a reporter and local columnist for the Charlotte Observer, where he was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in commentary. He has also written for publications including Esquire, ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Garden & Gun. He’s a graduate of the University of Georgia and was a 2008-09 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Tommy and his wife, Alix Felsing, live in Charlotte.