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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel
by Ocean Vuong

Published: 2019-06-04
Hardcover : 256 pages
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35 clubs reading this now
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An instant New York Times Bestseller!

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 ...

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Introduction

An instant New York Times Bestseller!

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.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of June 2019:There is an immediacy to On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous that almost feels unique. The author Ocean Vuong was first published as a poet, and the poetry in this novel—present in the language, in the images and ideas—is unforgettable. The narrator is a young man in his late twenties, nicknamed Little Dog by his family, who is composing a long letter to his Vietnamese mother. Little Dog and his family grew up poor in Hartford, Connecticut, but their struggles do not end there. His mother still carries the burden of the war, as does his grandmother, and Little Dog’s struggles reach not only back to the traumas of Vietnam but forward in his efforts to fit in to a world that sees him as other. Eventually, he does find some solace in an ill-fated relationship with an older “redneck” boy, but that is only temporary. What is permanent is his desire to write, and of course his family. Vuong almost seems to be trying to super inject imagery, emotion, and language into every page, and to great effect; but no writer can reach absolute perfection. There are soaring moments in this novel, many of them. There will also be moments (although they will disagree on which ones) where readers feel that the writing fails. That’s how great art is made.—Chris Schluep, Amazon Book Review

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. What does the title mean? (this line is on p.238)
2. What is the cover image? How does it connect to the novel?
3. Why do you think we never learn the narrator/letter writer’s real name?
4. Can you see the value in writing a letter to someone who can’t read? 
5. What do you think was Little Dog’s reason for writing this letter?
6. How does the book explore the idea of inherited family trauma?
7. Discuss Little Dog’s relationship with Paul, compared to those with his mother and grandmother. 
8. In Roxanne Gay’s review of this novel on Goodreads, she says, “He writes the body so well…He writes sex better than anyone out there.” What do you think of that assessment? What was your own reaction to the sex scenes? And how do those tie into the overall themes of the novel?
9. Discuss some of your favorite lines from the novel, how did the author’s stunning imagery impact your reading experience?  

questions from ramona reads

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Member Reviews

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  "The book was not what I expected...too detailed about subjects that do not interest me."by thewanderingjew (see profile) 03/04/20

On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong, author and narrator
Often, when an author reads his/her own book, the reading lacks something which a professional brings to the narration. Th
... (read more)

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