In Book of the Other Truong Tran’s prose poetry conjures an overwhelming sense of a halt, a pause, a stop. It is about more than a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against the academy.
A page is the space for a solitary paragraph, capitalizations not included. A sentence is a clause. The sense of smallness evoked by a word implies a larger space to which it may be subjected. For Tran, I feel it fair to say, institutional racism occupies that space. The silence and the white of the pages demand a reader’s ear be attuned by and to the same silent revolt suffered by the narrator, the I, the one who addresses “dear white”. Thoughts and sentences are surrounded, enclosed, almost isolated. The attempt to read through the staccato imposes a stop, one simultaneously representing the sense of halt suffered by the narrator (a trace of that anxiety), and evoking a pause that invites a vision of the sweep of not solely racism, but othering otherness.
The piece both showcases the philosophical literacy that accredits Tran, and the freedom of expression that would discredit institutions, mark Tran as invisible transgressor. It is like a cenotaph for pioneers of academic justice across identities—but not merely in terms of acceptance into some structure, and not confined to the institution. Yet Tran seeks to triangulate the dissonance between a colleague’s word and action—because racism happened, “its happening even now”. Book of the Other displays a courage needed to respond to truth, to the other in oneself, the other other.