Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a shattering portrait of a family, a first love, and the redemptive power of storytelling.
“Written as a letter from son to mother, Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is desolately beautiful. Each carefully crafted sentence builds upon the last, a momentum that carries you through a hundred pages before you remember to take a breath. Bleak, brilliant, it is the book other books will be compared to for years. Honestly, I would have been fine if it had been the last book I ever read.”Cody, Book Culture, @thecodystuart
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.
“A bruised, breathtaking love letter never meant to be sent. A powerful testimony to magic and loss. A marvel.”Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf
“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.”Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere
“Sometimes a writer comes along and stops your breath. I’m reading On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and there is so little air moving through my body as I read. When writing is this good, who needs air?”Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red at the Bone