ContemporaryOn Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong


I read this book in one go, it felt like I didn’t breath from the first to last page. I then went back a few months later to reread (which is a sure sign that this is going to be an all time favourite), to savour the poetic and highly descriptive style of prose. 

A letter from a son to his mother who cannot read, this is the tale of a family ravaged by the conflict in Vietnam and their journey to America. There is astonishing brutality to the tale he weaves and that violence trickles down. The characters are layered, complex and utterly real, so much so they bloom of the page and became people I could see and hear. Their desperation and struggles give a voice to the millions of people that share this story. 

The epistolary narrative is fragmented which for me added to the sense of memory that he evokes, coming in waves, sometimes so strong and yet sometimes so gently. There is an urgency to the observations of @ocean_vuong that hooked me immediately, building up gradually. I was so moved by the potent exploration of sexuality and identity. It’s luminous, incandescent, witty, devastating and beautiful. At its heart, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a tale of survival at all costs. 

What blew me away was the writer’s ability to create indelible imagery with words that evoke and heighten the senses- as an example when describing the nail salon where his mother worlds I could literally smell the chemicals. 

This is political poetry, holding a mirror up to the opioid crisis and the decisions of men in war that affected generations of families. This is also a visceral story of love against all odds set against a backdrop of stigma and homophobia. An incredible debut from a talented writer. Did you love this book too ~ we want to know! Shout out to @em_digs_books for her midnight messages of support when I was despairing over this picture (what have I become?!?)


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