Jee reviews ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ by #OceanVuong @PenguinPress #PenguinPress #LGBT #epistolary #queerculture #pridemonth #AmericanAsianLiterature @DBookFestival #dbf2019

Title/Author: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Publisher: Penguin Press

In a nutshell (Publisher):

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.

Verdict: Not for everyone

My thoughts:

The main character, Little Dog, a Vietnamese migrant to the US, decided to write to his mother, a letter of sorts – a confession, if I may, of his fears, his observations, his sexuality, his thoughts; his story. So the entire book appeared as snippets of his life and memories, back and forth.

If you can’t verbally express your emotions, will words on paper make your feelings and thoughts clearer? Will you be understood better? Will you gain a better understanding of yourself? Little Dog proved that pen is indeed mightier than the swordEven ‘sword’ can’t exist without ‘word’. Did I make sense? Lol

This book is so so sad. Melancholic. Painful. I had a hard time reading it. Especially when it came to drugs and death, and loss. Tears welled up in my eyes when I read of the grandma’s passing. The whole scene was too heartbreaking. At times, it read like a memoir. Maybe it is partially based on the author’s life. I don’t know.

This book is about so many things – pain, love, homosexuality, immigrants, family, war, violence, trauma, drugs, desperation, devastation, beauty, nature, of being foreign and different, of being invisible. 

Those who find this grandiose and over-the-top might not be able to finish it, and that it doesn’t deserve the rave reviews. But if you give it a chance, take your time, and let each word sink in, the raw power of it will emerge.

LOOK AWAY if you’re looking for or expecting some sort of a plot, because you won’t find it here. Be reminded that this is a letter written to the MC’s mom.

Can’t wait to meet the author at the Decatur Book Festival this year!

TW: sexual, explicit contents

To get a gist of the author’s style:

“Because the sunset, like survival, exists only on the verge of its own disappearing. To be gorgeous, you must first be seen, but to be seen allows you to be hunted.”

“Did you know people get rich off of sadness? I want to meet the millionaire of American sadness. I want to look at him in the eye, shake his hand, and say, ‘It’s been an honor to serve my country.‘”

Have you read this book? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to read it? Please share with me your thoughts!

Last but not least, thank you for stopping by! May the power of good books be with you always!

15 Comments Add yours

  1. nsfordwriter says:

    Great review, Jee! Sounds like an unusual book, for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, NS! Yup it was quite a different read for me! I had to reset my brain for it hahaha but I like challenging myself like this 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hmmm this has been high on my TBR. I’m not sure if it’s something that’s going to be to my tastes but I’m inclined to give it a shot. Great review, nice job summing up the pros and cons! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Jenn! Can’t wait to read your review once you get to it! And thank you for stopping by! ❤️ ❤️


  3. Sounds hearbreaking… How cool you are going to that book festival and will meet the author though! I have to check out what festival that is….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      It’s the coolest most amazing book fest I’ve ever attended and it’s free! 😁 Do we have to buy tix for NYC book con?


  4. Beautiful review, Jee! Good to know I need to savor this one. Enjoy the festival!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Jennifer! 😘

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Rae Reads says:

    Fine, fair review. Still thinking over whether I want to tackle this. You’ve made me think, dear.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Rae! ❤️ You just made my day! 😘

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Completely agree, Jee. I personally loved it, but I can see how it wouldn’t work for everyone. Great review!<3

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Shreya! And thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure, Jee.

        Liked by 1 person

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