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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  105,258 ratings  ·  14,561 reviews

Brilliant, heartbreaking, tender, and highly original – poet Ocean Vuong's debut novel is a sweeping and shattering portrait of a family, and a testament to 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
Hardcover, 246 pages
Published June 20th 2019 by Jonathan Cape (first published June 4th 2019)
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  • On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
    On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

    Release date: Jun 01, 2021
    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 ...more

    Format: Print book

    Giveaway ends in: a

    Availability: 15 copies available, 13401 people requesting

    Giveaway dates: Jun 14 - Jun 30, 2021

    Countries available: U.S.

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    Sabine I thought it was in the title. That we have this fleeting moment on earth and in that moment there is pain and suffering but also this joy, in small t…moreI thought it was in the title. That we have this fleeting moment on earth and in that moment there is pain and suffering but also this joy, in small things, of being alive, of having love that is authentic.
    From pg 231:
    "All this time I told myself we were born from war-but I was wrong Ma. We were born from beauty.
    Let no one mistake us fro the fruit of violence-but that the violence, having passed through the fruit, failed to spoil it."(less)
    Elena Tuya you can use the app and connect with your library card to read or listen to audiobooks for free

    Community Reviews

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    Average rating 4.05  · 
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     ·  105,258 ratings  ·  14,561 reviews

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    chai ♡
    find this review & others on my blog

    Dear Ma ,” within the narrator’s head—or it might have been his heart—the name begins tolling, very much like a bell, “ I am writing to reach you—even if each word I put down is one word further from where you are. ” And although he knows his mother is illiterate—her education capped at the age of 5 after a napalm raid destroyed her schoolhouse in Vietnam—and thus, all his hours and pain will be folded in paper and put away, the words kept tumbli
    Emily May
    Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: modern-lit, 2019
    “All freedom is relative—you know too well—and sometimes it’s no freedom at all, but simply the cage widening far away from you, the bars abstracted with distance but still there, as when they “free” wild animals into nature preserves only to contain them yet again by larger borders. But I took it anyway, that widening.”

    4 1/2 stars. Stunning.

    On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is quite a book. It is not surprising that the author is a poet, as this reads almost like a poetry collection - prose p
    Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Ocean is a brilliant writer and I am a fan of his work. I even published him once in PANK! It has been thrilling to watch him soar. The prose in this novel is sublime. The way he writes is just… exquisite. He writes the body so well. He writes about the complicated relationship between a mother and son with real tenderness, with compelling honesty. He writes sex better than almost anyone out there. There are so many lines that gutted me or exhilarated me or stunned me. I wanted to sit with each ...more
    So you go to a high-end restaurant with an elaborate tasting menu. You are served dishes with fancy names that involve sublimated beetroot gel and deconstructed potato foam, and though the experience is unique and artisanal, you go home feeling... unsated. My experience with this novel in a nutshell.

    At first glance, Vuong’s book has all the ingredients of a winning novel — lyrical writing, fascinating themes, a topical premise. Taking the form of a long, confessional letter from a young Vietname
    Celeste Ng
    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. ...more
    ELLIAS (elliasreads)
    You want to read a book where it'll break your soul, heart, and mind but remake and rebuild them all at the same time????!!!!1!1!

    This book fucking wrecked me (no i didn't cry because everything inside me was dead anyways) BUT when I say everything— e v e r y t h i n g— I felt reading this book: it all transcends and escalates into something that is literally close to basic divination.

    Basically this book gave me superpowers I didn't know I had.

    If you want that feeling, that punch of seroton
    Ron Charles
    May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    May 31 marks the 200th anniversary of Walt Whitman’s birth, and the best present we could possibly receive is Ocean Vuong’s debut novel, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” The connection between the Good Gray Poet and this young Vietnamese immigrant may seem tenuous, but with his radical approach to form and his daring mix of personal reflection, historical recollection and sexual exploration, Vuong is surely a literary descendant of the author of “Leaves of Grass.” Emerging from the most margin ...more
    Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: 2019
    Recently, when I have opened my Goodreads web page, it has seemed to be full of people giving a lot of stars to this book and singing its praises in glowing reviews.

    I opened the book with high hopes.

    On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous uses a fragmented narrative to tell, or perhaps explore is a better word, the life of Little Dog, a son born to Vietnamese immigrants into the USA. The reader gradually pieces together the story of Little Dog’s mother (Rose) and grandmother (Lan) along with Little Dog’
    Ruby Granger
    Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    I read this for the Ruby Reads book club in January and it is one of the most lyrical narratives I have ever happened across. Vuong presents an atemporal account of life as Vietnamese immigrant in America. Vuong's imagery is painstakingly accurate and incredibly clever. He also captures the child's voice really well (the observations we make as children, but miss as adults). At once beautiful and heartbreaking, this novel is a masterpiece. ...more
    Will Byrnes
    I am thinking of beauty again, how some things are hunted because we have deemed them beautiful. If, relative to the history of our planet, an individual life is so short, a blink of an eye, as they say, then to be gorgeous, even from the day you’re born to the day you die, is to be gorgeous only briefly…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.

    Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    I am out here stanning the success of Ocean Vuong’s debut novel! As a fellow queer Vietnamese American, it feels so amazing to see someone with my same ethnic and queer identities breaking through in the literary world – and so sad that we have to fight so hard for our voices to be heard. This book took me on a scattershot, beautiful emotional journey. It felt less like reading a novel and more like reading tender, poignant passages about several connected moments: our narrator Little Dog accide ...more
    Angela M
    Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    This is such a beautiful book title and it was the title that drew me to read the description and request a copy of it. Not only is the title beautiful, but much of the writing here is as well. It’s described as literary fiction, but a brief look at Ocean Vuong’s bio after I read this book made the biographical nature of the story striking. This letter from a young Vietnamese immigrant to his mother who doesn’t know how to read is raw, impactful, achingly sad, painful to read. It is filled with ...more
    Diane Barnes
    Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    No review. Just a list of adjectives.


    The author didn't write this book; he opened his heart and just let it bleed all over the pages. Reading it cracked mine open and turned me inside out.

    Just a sample: "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, "Its been an honor to serve my country".
    Giorgia ~ Reads
    5 Stars

    This is one of those books that reminds me why I read.

    Sure, I read for pleasure and to keep at bay anxieties and worries that otherwise occupy my mind (that’s what my romance/chick-lit stacks are for) but my true love for the written word came from discovering the beauty of depth and emotion that’s hidden within the lyrical prose of select writers.

    To say that the writing in this book is gorgeous would be an understatement. There is one measure I use to determine if I find a particular
    Sometimes, a book just hits you.

    I read 200+ books a year. This month, I’ve read almost a book a day. When I’m reading that much, it can just be because the stars aligned and gave me an insane amount of free time and I chose to spend it all on Bettering Myself Through Literature, but more often, it’s because I’m trying to escape from my snoozefest daily life and my annoying brain.

    Currently, it’s the latter.

    When I read that much, it can put the stories at a distance. Or really I want to immerse my
    Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    'all this time i told myself we were born from war, but I was wrong. we were born from beauty. let no one mistake us for the fruit of violence - but that violence, having passed through the fruit, failed to spoil it.'

    wow. i am stunned. in a debut novel where prose so elegantly meets verse, a work of beauty is created and the world is a better place because of it.

    i randomly came across this video (probably one of the most genuine interviews i have ever seen) and i immediately fell in lov
    Nilufer Ozmekik
    Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    This is a literary feast, poetic, lyrical, heart wrenching, amazing story! My emotions are everywhere and I am so shaken, stunned, speechless and never thought this book could get affected me deeply. I think I should a few steps to get closer to the wall and hit my head to punish myself again and again when I routinely do for waiting too long to start a beautiful book!

    This is a poignant, unique, heart capturing, meaningful letter of Vietnam immigrant to his mother who doesn’t know how to read wh
    Elyse  Walters
    Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Fearless... delicate....and haunting.

    The beautiful language escalates rapidly and tenderly.

    For me...I felt the silence between the words Ocean Vuong wrote and those he didn’t.

    Very powerful and self-reflective.

    May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: 2019, recs
    Thoughtful and tender, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous meditates on the powers of storytelling. The autobiographical novel’s framed as a letter from a queer Vietnamese son, Little Dog, to his illiterate single mother, Rose. Across three expansive parts Little Dog reflects on his turbulent youth spent in Hartford, Connecticut, and hopes that the act of remembering family history through writing might heal longstanding wounds and bring parent and child closer. Using as guideposts the works of thin ...more
    Alllllll my opinions and ideas and thoughts will be on the podcast episode dedicated to this book! <3 Check out the podcast: ...more
    Jun 04, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: united-states
    I gave Vuong’s full-length poetry debut 1 star, which made a lot of people upset in the same way as when you tell a high school student that their favorite band sucks. Now I wish I had given it 2 stars, because this book is worse. Worse still is what Vuong represents: the literary establishment unchanged despite our being told otherwise. No, it has not opened itself to new voices; yes, it is still as capital-driven as ever. The only new, marginalized voices it chooses are those that will sell. V ...more
    Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    With a title like this, an author whose name is Ocean and the remarkable reviews, I thought this would surely be a great one. Little Dog writes to his mother in such a raw emotional and passionate way. He reflects on his life -in his 20’s- the relationship with his mother who abused him at the same time suffering from her own mental
    Illness having survived the Vietnam war; his own journey through sexual exploration of his own orientation to finding himself; and the relationships he’s had with fam
    anna (½ of readsrainbow)
    rep: Vietnamese-American gay mc, Vietnamese characters, gay characters
    tw: on page death, child abuse, drugs, war descriptions, homophobia, animal violence

    Review also on my blog. ARC provided by the publisher.

    Ocean Vuong is first & foremost a poet and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is his literary debut (he also has a poem by the same title). It’s not a novel novel, though, not in this very Western sense we’re all used to. There are no prominent arcs or villains, or any ascending tension. It’s
    Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    I went back and forth wondering if I should give this a 4 or 5 star was just such a combination of beautiful writing ...poetic, raw and brutal...that it had to end up with a 5 star, for me!
    This novel is a letter from “little dog” a Vietnamese-American gay man to his Vietnamese mother.
    The family came to America when little dog was a little boy with just a few relatives, settled finally in Connecticut where life was tough.
    I’m not going to go into the story because you need to just rea
    Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: 2019-releases
    Books by poets always have the best titles, don’t they? On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous , acclaimed poet Ocean Vuong’s semi-autobiographical debut novel, takes the form of a letter from Little Dog to his mother, both Vietnamese refugees now living in the U.S. This poignant, lyrical story more than delivers on the promise of that striking title.

    “Because gunshots, lies, and oxtail—or whatever you want to call your god—should say Yes over and over, in cycles, in spirals, with no other reason
    Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: owned
    Beautiful and poetic, a meditation on growing up in rural, dying America as a gay immigrant
    That time at the Chinese butcher, you pointed to the roasted pig hanging from its hook. “The ribs are just like q person’s after they’re burned.” You let out a clipped chuckle, then paused, rook out your pocketbook, your face pinched, and recounted our money.

    Mother and Son
    When does a war end? When can I say your name and have it mean only your name and not what you left behind?
    On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeo
    This work is called a novel but it is a ball of flame tossed into a dark night, blinding, brilliant, searing. Who knows if it is poetry or novel or memoir; the language fills the mouth and is saturated with truth. We recognize it. We’ve tasted it. We are pained by it. It still hurts.

    Something here is reminiscent of the epic poetry of Homer. Life's brutality, man’s frailty, the odyssey, the clash of civilizations, the incomparable language undeniably capturing human experience, these things make
    “They say nothing lasts forever and I’m writing you in the voice of an endangered species.”
    I can’t even. I’m overwhelmed by the beauty and heartbreak of this book. Please experience it.

    My favorite quote:
    “Maybe we look into mirrors not merely to seek beauty, regardless how illusive, but to make sure, despite the facts, that we are still here. That the hunted body we move in has not yet been annihilated, scraped out. To see yourself still yourself is a refuge men who have not been d
    Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Recommended to Dolors by: Seemita
    Shelves: read-in-2020
    Vuong’s voice is delicate and scathing all at once, his words heal and wound and palpitate with raw intensity, like the heart of a caged animal that knows its end is near and is absorbing everything its brief life has offered, the beautiful and the horrible, leaving nothing out.

    This book is a son’s letter to his illiterate mother, a tender and desperate attempt to put down into words what he never said out loud, and probably never will, to the tormented woman who loved and abused him because she
    Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Recommends it for: Everyone
    Recommended to Seemita by: Twitter

    A twig to hang our old ages on, a current to charge our failed youth from; a blanket to hush our demons from the black, a spring to nourish our wounded dreams underneath. A whole. A hollow. And everything suspended in between is memory.
    'Ma. You once told me that memory is a choice. But if you were god, you’d know it’s a flood.'
    And like a flood, Little Dog untethers me from my world and takes me to his’, where he writes a letter and recounts his life of 28 odd years to his Ma, who is
    « previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
    Ocean Vuong is the author of the debut novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, out from Penguin Press (2019) and forthcoming in 15 other languages worldwide. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Forward Prize for Best Firs ...more

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