“Like Words Printed on Skin”: Desire, Animal Masks, and Multispecies Relationships in Monique Truong’s The Book of Salt

  • Nandini Thiyagarajan
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


Monique Truong’s The Book of Salt features a passage in which the protagonist Bình encounters a dying pigeon with a broken wing: “A pigeon, an ordinary, city-gray pigeon, stumbles between the girl’s black boots and tries to spread its wings. The right one opens to its full span, a flourish of white. The left one collapses halfway, a crush of gray” (218). This passage encapsulates issues at the heart of the present chapter: the ways in which the bodies, lives, and deaths of animals quietly inhabit the pages of Truong’s novel.1 Amidst the seemingly anthropocentric concerns of the novel—from postcoloniality, race, and diaspora, to queerness, historicism, and European modernity—this pigeon’s presence compels us to consider how animals and animality are intricately woven into these larger themes. If we read closely, the bodies of animals in The Book of Salt can tell us how animals are intimately tied into the construction of postcolonial identity and subjectivity. Animals provide a space in proximity to—but always at the mercy of—humans, and my analysis in this chapter illuminates the force of belonging and intimacy that can be found by inhabiting a space between human and animal worlds. More generally, whereas animals often fall outside the scope of commentary on Truong’s novel, by attending to the presence of animals in The Book of Salt, I focus on “some of the experiences that lie in the wake of a familiar story” (Bennett 7).


Nonhuman Animal Animal World Present Chapter Postcolonial Study Familiar Story 
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© Nandini Thiyagarajan 2016

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  • Nandini Thiyagarajan

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