On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
Author: Ocean Vuong
Publisher: Penguin Random House (2019)
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.
“A bruised, breathtaking love letter never meant to be sent. A powerful testimony to magic and loss. A marvel.”
“This is one of the best novels I’ve ever read. I always want my favorite poets to write novels and here it’s happened. Ocean Vuong is a master. This book a masterpiece. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is an ode to loss and struggle, to being a Vietnamese American, to Hartford, Connecticut, and it’s a compassionate epistolary ode to a mother who may or may not know how to read. I dog-eared so many pages the book almost collapsed—I almost did.”
“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous will be described—rightly—as luminous, shattering, urgent, necessary. But the word I keep circling back to is raw: that’s how powerful the emotions here are, and how you’ll feel after reading it—scoured down to bone. With a poet’s precision, Ocean Vuong examines whether putting words to one’s experience can bridge wounds that span generations, and whether it’s ever possible to be truly heard by those we love most.”