On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous


Ocean Vuong

. . .

Published : June 4th, 2019

. . .

“They say addiction might be linked to bipolar disorder. It’s the chemicals in our brains, they say. I got the wrong chemicals, Ma. Or rather, I don’t get enough of one or the other. They have a pill for it. They have an industry. They make millions. Did you know people get rich off of sadness? I want to meet the millionaire of American sadness. I want to look him in the eye, shake his hand, and say, ‘It’s been an honor to serve my country.'”

. . .

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read.

It follows themes of finding his sexuality, his relationship with his mother and grandmother, and growing up Vietnamese in America when his family is still tied to the war.

This book was compelling at every turn. You can tell Vuong is mainly a poet by how he writes, detailed and expressive.

Little Dog, his grandmother, and his mother are interesting protagonists, and you really feel like you know them. They’re written in thoughtful segments, (memories, conversations) so you’re getting pieces of their history, their personality through the text. It’s really effective actually.

A small qualm I had with this novel is that the story is rather lacking. There is not really a plot, instead being a collection of thoughts, memories, and experiences.

It’s sometimes fragmented, jumping from one memory to another, leaving me wondering what the point was.

As Vuong writes himself:

“I’m not telling you a story so much as a shipwreck – the pieces floating, finally legible.”

Another issue I had was the trigger warnings in this book. In the beginning of the book there is an upsetting scene including a monkey, and I simply wasn’t prepared for that. Animal death is spoken of nonchalantly throughout the novel.

Thankfully, the style and prose makes up for a lot of that, at least for me. I just wish I had been warned beforehand?

I would highly recommend this novel though, regardless of its shortcomings. It’s incredibly unique, and will definitely stick with me for a while.

. . .

“Do you understand? I was a gaping wound in the middle of America and you were inside me asking, ‘Where are we? Where are we, baby?'”

. . .

My Rating :


Thanks for reading!

. . .

Have you read this, or Vuong’s other works? Would you read this? Let me know in the comments!

3 thoughts on “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

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