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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
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ARCHIVE - BOTM discussions > On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong - June 2020

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message 1: by Kristie, Moderator (last edited May 16, 2020 12:19PM) (new)

Kristie | 4826 comments The group chose to read On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong in June as our "African & Asian literature in English " themed read. Please discuss here and remember to use spoiler tags as needed, as everyone may start at different times and read at different speeds.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

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.


Chad Carleton | 3 comments THIS POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS! - Sorry I’m new to GoodReads, I cannot find how to designate this as containing spoilers.



I actually read this book about a month ago before I joined this group. Let’s just say IT IS AMAZING!!! I have never read anything from this author before, but it was wonderful. Some may have negative feelings about it, because at times it seems like he is just going all over the place and there is no structure to the story. However, this only adds to artistry behind his story. He knew nothing of structure going up, he had a lot of “cold love” situations from the people that were supposed to care about him most.

I found I relate to the author very much through out the story. I am also a gay man that grew up with a very cold and distant mother like Ocean (my mother was actually worse than his). I had seen her struggle to make ends meet and show me a different kind of love. While she was not affectionate, she showed her love by making sure he had a place to live and food to eat. The part about the bike broke my heart because she did the best that she could and to him it was one of the best things he had ever gotten, but he was bullied from other kids for it. When this happens to a kid, it can make them hate something they actually love, and resent their parent for getting them it, and maybe not understanding that is the best they could do.

I can’t even imagine going through what he did with Trevor. It was heart-wrenching that Trevor deep down cared for him, but he wasn’t comfortable with his own sexuality so he couldn’t be his true authentic self. While this is speculation, it makes think the abuse physically and mentally from his father, and his inability to accept his sexuality is what reinforced his drug addiction and in turn took his life. It seems the two saviors in Ocean’s life both left him unexpectedly while he was off bettering himself. I cannot remember in the book if he felt this, but I would definitely imagine him feeling guilt and remorse on leaving, and wondering “what if”.

I have also had “relationships” with “straight” guys or guys that are not comfortable with their sexuality. I can say that there is nothing more toxic and self-deprecating than being in these situations. Most times the person cares about you, but then can’t care about you enough because they care about their image more. There have been times where I wasn’t claimed at a party or a group of friends because of fear of being discovered. You realize real quick that you are always second best, if you being around or being mentioned in anyway jeopardizes the image of the “straight” person you’re instantly cast to the side like an unwanted toy. It can do a lot of damage to a person’s confidence and can definitely be internalized as something wrong with you and not that person. I am excited now that he has found someone that accepts him for him and is comfortable with themselves (at least in a sexuality sense).

Overall I think this is a wonderful story of a young gay man who grew up with next to nothing and saw the beauty in the little things he had. Now with his story, pain, sorrow, joy, etc. he is able to write beautiful, raw, and vulnerable literature that can speak to everyone. I am very glad this group is exposed to this story because it can show the difficulty of being a gay man and being in relationships.


message 3: by Kristie, Moderator (new)

Kristie | 4826 comments Chad wrote: "THIS POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS! - Sorry I’m new to GoodReads, I cannot find how to designate this as containing spoilers."

Thank you for marking your post so clearly! To create a spoiler tag, type the following:

<.spoiler.> The text you want to hide goes here. <./.spoiler.>

Remove all of the extra periods, but don't leave any extra spaces. I put those there so it wouldn't close and become an actual spoiler.


message 4: by Sandra (new)

Sandra (sanjaginev) | 1 comments I attempted to read the book, but was very disappointed with the structure of it.

The paragraphs just did not flow well for me. The idea of the book itself was a really great one. I feel like it would have worked better if there was a theme for each chapter, and the paragraphs linked together better.


message 5: by Audrey (new)

Audrey (audreynh) | 2 comments I read this book a little bit ago and thought it was great! I saw Sanja's message about the paragraphs not flowing well, and I agreed. it took me a while to get into the stream-of-consciousness-esque flow of the book and at times it did take away from the story. But thinking about the experience of the group, I very much enjoyed it. It was great at opening my eyes to an experience beyond my own in a very visceral way, so this book has my approval, lol.


message 6: by Lex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lex (lexi_liese) | 136 comments I'm ba-aaack! This is the first group read I've participated in since March. I have been in a reading slump since then, so I'm back with a vengeance and reading three books right now with this being one of them. That might not seem like a lot at once to some, but normally I get way too into the books I'm reading, so I have to devour them one at a time. I'm only about 20 pages in (of the Kindle version), but I like it so far. So far I'm into the paragraph flow, but I could always change my mind as I get farther in. I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts!


message 7: by Kristie, Moderator (new)

Kristie | 4826 comments Welcome back, Lex! I think a lot of us started struggling around then. I've been picking up more the past few weeks finally. Hope you enjoy this one.


Kirsten  (kmcripn) I'm not quite done with this. I am enjoying it very much for several reasons.

1) The language is beautiful, it is almost lyrical.
2) The representation of immigrant culture
3) The representation of growing up gay in America.


Carol (fleter) | 117 comments I’ve started this one...as others have noted the writing style is very different. Not sure how that will work for me but it’s early in the book.


Ananya | 75 comments It is pure gold in terms of literature! The writing is just amazing. It took me 5 days to complete it but I'm feeling so happy right now


Carol (fleter) | 117 comments Finished. I can appreciate the literary skill of the author; however for me, the book was just too rambling and disjointed, while very raw. I found myself skimming a lot. There was some beautiful writing.


message 12: by Lex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lex (lexi_liese) | 136 comments Finished last night! I really liked this one. However, it has a pretty distinct style, so I completely understand how this is kind of a hit or miss. Something that I appreciated was how I was never brought to tears, but instead a deep sense of sadness grew in me the farther into the book I got. I imagine that's what Ocean Vuong was going for.


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