Synopsis from Penguin Random House:
Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a shattering portrait of a family, a first love, and the redemptive power of storytelling
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.
With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.
About: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a literary fiction debut written by Ocean Vuong. It was published on 6/4/2019 by Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, hardcover, 246 pages. The genres are literary fiction, contemporary, and queer. This book is the author’s debut but he has published many poems in the past. According to the publisher’s website, “Penguin Random House is the international home to nearly 275 editorially and creatively independent publishing imprints. Together, our imprints publish over 70,000 digital and 15,000 print titles annually, with more than 100,000 eBooks available worldwide.” Please see below for more information about the author and publisher.
My Experience: I started reading On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous on 2/24/2022 and finished it on 3/13/2022. An interesting read! I enjoyed the humor at “fast food” where rice was served with tea. Though sadly it shouldn’t be a laughing matter because it’s a poor man’s meal. Grocery shopping without knowing English became a game of charade, where the seller laughed and the shopper left the store with frustration and an empty shopping cart. I have heard of this shopping experience and it’s funny but sad at the same time because of language barriers. The drugs mentioned surprised me especially ones where it was prescribed to heal only to later caused patients to become addicted to the point of overdosed and death. I always think to trust doctors to prescribe safe medicines to patients for healing but now I should think carefully about taking medicine as it looks like not all medicines are for good. I enjoyed the story of the main character’s grandma. This book was filled with happy and sad parts both to people and animals. It reminded me of why I wanted to become a vegan all over again. Except it’s not easy.
This book started with a letter to his mom. Some were good memories but some were laced with physical abuse. He didn’t told on his mom when his injuries were visible and noticeable at school. He wrote about monarch butterflies migration in parallel to his letter to his mom. The story started at third grade to ten years old and later at twenty-eight years old but circled around at six and thirteen and fourteen, etc. His mom worked at the nail salon. On her birthday, she took him shopping at Goodwill and bought some clothes. Later a neighborhood kid saw him wearing his mom’s dress in front of his house and he endured bullying at school. Sometimes they dressed up to go window shopping at high ends shopping center. Other times she threatened him with a knife or beat him with a remote control. At thirteen, he told his mom to stop hitting him. At fourteen he worked a summer job at the tobacco farm and there he met a boy. The city his family lived in was full of drug addicts and wife beater husbands, including his own father. The story weaved between past and present but not in a clear timeline and where the past sometimes sounded like a memory.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was well written and the humor was well received. I didn’t expect to read interracial gay sex in this story. With an abundance of gay romance books available nowadays, this book shouldn’t surprise me but it did because I haven’t wanting to intentionally read them yet. I’m also surprised at the underage drugs and drinking, how it was easily obtainable by underage users. The whole story though, I don’t think I learned of the main character’s school name but just a nick name, Little Dog, his family called him. Also I wondered why Trevor and Little Dog never expressed love in words. I read this book because my friend saw a post on Facebook about the author. She told me about him and I recognized his name right away because I have seen a few bookstagrammers posted about reading this book and I had added to my TBR. I read the story and was curious how closely the story resembled to the author’s biography. It made me wonder why he didn’t write it as a memoir. But then I thought fiction was a better choice because there were actions in this story that many Asians don’t like to admit it. A great read, though sometimes a bit depressing, I do recommend everyone to read it.
I rate it 4.5 stars!
About the Author:
Ocean Vuong is the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds and the New York Times bestselling novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. A recipient of the 2019 MacArthur “Genius” Grant, he is also the winner of the Whiting Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His writings have been featured in The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. (Photo and info obtained from Penguin’s website).
More Information about Penguin Press
***I borrowed this book from the library and my opinions are honest.