Exquisite, emotional, exceptional—these are just three of the many effusive words I use to describe On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.
Ocean Vuong is a critically acclaimed, award-winning poet and his skill with expressive, lyrical prose is just remarkable.
This novel is written as a letter to his mother. “Little Dog,” as he’s known to his family, shares his family’s painful story with the reader. While their challenges are common for immigrant families—language barriers, poverty, racism, and more—the story feels so personal. As Little Dog matures, he works on a tobacco farm and finds love in unexpected places. At times, a hopeful future feels possible and exciting, despite the trauma endured as a young boy, at the hands of both his father and mother.
Little Dog weaves in family memories of Vietnam, and the Viet Cong, as told to him by his grandmother, who lives with them as she ages. He acknowledges the pain the women in his life have endured—often at the hands of men—yet he appreciates and acknowledges their continued, endless strength. And those stories, and that strength, will overwhelm you with emotion.
June 2019 Indie Next List
“Alright 2019, this is the novel to beat. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is the rare novel that makes you experience reading in a slightly different way and shows you that, no matter how many books you’ve read, something new and uniquely beautiful can still be found. The novel takes the form of a letter written by the main character, Little Dog, to his mother — an immigrant from Vietnam who cannot read. The power of Vuong’s poetic writing shimmers with every paragraph, and each phrase is a carefully considered, emotional journey. Grappling with themes of identity, sexuality, addiction, violence, and finding your place in a world where you feel you don’t belong, this book already feels like a modern classic, destined to be read and talked about for years to come.”
— Caleb Masters, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC
Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction!
An instant New York Times Bestseller!
Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal!
Named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by Vulture, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Oprah.com, Huffington Post, The A.V. Club, Nylon, The Week, The Rumpus, The Millions, The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and more.
“A lyrical work of self-discovery that’s shockingly intimate and insistently universal…Not so much briefly gorgeous as permanently stunning.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
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 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, TheNew Republic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.