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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
Cover of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
A Novel
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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,...
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,...
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  • 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.

Reviews-

  • Library Journal

    A young man named Little Dog writes a letter to his mother, who cannot read, investigating a family history begun in Vietnam and addressing stark issues of race, class, and masculinity. If Vuong's debut novel is anything like his exquisite full-length poetry debut, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, a T.S. Eliot Prize winner and LJ Best Poetry Book, it will be sensational.

    Copyright 1 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 1, 2019
    Poet Vuong’s frank first novel (after Night Sky with Exit Wounds) takes the form of a letter from a man to his illiterate mother in which 28-year-old Little Dog, a writer who’s left the impoverished Hartford, Conn., of his youth for New York City, retraces his coming of age. His childhood is marked by abuse from his overworked mother, as well as the traumas he’s inherited from his mother’s and grandmother’s experiences during the Vietnam War. Having left Vietnam with them as a young boy, and after the incarceration of his father, Little Dog’s attempts to assimilate include contending with language barriers and the banal cruelty of the supposedly well-intentioned. He must also adapt to the world as a gay man and as a writer—the novel’s beating heart rests in Little Dog’s first, doomed love affair with another teenage boy, and in his attempts to describe what being a writer truly is. Vuong’s prose shines in the intimate scenes between the young men, but sometimes the lyricism has a straining, vague quality (“They say nothing lasts forever but they’re just scared it will last longer than they will love it”; “But the thing about forever is you can’t take it back”). Nevertheless, this is a haunting meditation on loss, love, and the limits of human connection.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2019
    A young man writes a letter to his illiterate mother in an attempt to make sense of his traumatic beginnings. When Little Dog is a child growing up in Hartford, he is asked to make a family tree. Where other children draw full green branches full of relatives, Little Dog's branches are bare, with just five names. Born in Vietnam, Little Dog now lives with his abusive--and abused--mother and his schizophrenic grandmother. The Vietnam War casts a long shadow on his life: His mother is the child of an anonymous American soldier--his grandmother survived as a sex worker during the conflict. Without siblings, without a father, Little Dog's loneliness is exacerbated by his otherness: He is small, poor, Asian, and queer. Much of the novel recounts his first love affair as a teen, with a "redneck" from the white part of town, as he confesses to his mother how this doomed relationship is akin to his violent childhood. In telling the stories of those who exist in the margins, Little Dog says, "I never wanted to build a 'body of work, ' but to preserve these, our bodies, breathing and unaccounted for, inside the work." Vuong has written one of the most lauded poetry debuts in recent memory (Night Sky with Exit Wounds, 2016), and his first foray into fiction is poetic in the deepest sense--not merely on the level of language, but in its structure and its intelligence, moving associationally from memory to memory, quoting Barthes, then rapper 50 Cent. The result is an uncategorizable hybrid of what reads like memoir, bildungsroman, and book-length poem. More important than labels, though, is the novel's earnest and open-hearted belief in the necessity of stories and language for our survival. A raw and incandescently written foray into fiction by one of our most gifted poets.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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A Novel
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