On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong

6 September 2021
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong, book cover

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (published by Penguin Books Australia, 2019), is the debut novel of Vietnamese American writer and poet Ocean Vuong. The story is set around a long letter written by a twenty-something Vietnamese immigrant living in America, nicknamed Little Dog, to his mother, Rose, who is illiterate.

Little Dog’s letter traces his family’s history, prior to his birth, and their relocation to America. He recounts his experiences of being bullied at school, and goes on reveal things his mother did not previously know about him. It is not always a life lived happily though, and domestic violence, racism, and homophobia, are among recurring themes.

Based in part on Vuong’s own life, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was named as one of the top ten novels of 2019 by the Washington Post, and was also a finalist in the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award. The novel is also set to be adapted for the screen, with American filmmaker Bing Liu directing.

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