This month I read the debut novel from poet, essayist, and novelist Ocean Vuong. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous which came out in 2019. I had heard nothing but good things about it from friends and online reviews but I hadn’t gotten around to it. It’s one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever read. I’m always binge-reading business and marketing books. I wanted to take a break and read something new this month to break up the monotony. After finishing this beauty of a book I’m so grateful I did.
This novel won my heart for several reasons. First, it straddles the line between nonfiction and poetry in such an artistic way. The novel is written as a letter from a son to his mother who can’t read. This reminded me of my relationship with my Grandmother. Much of the novel focuses on family relationships, grief, identity, and the immigrant experience. Reading Ocean Vuong’s novel, had me hooked from the first page. It’s told in the form of a letter to his mother, who immigrated to the US in hopes of finding a better life after the Vietnam War. The story begins with his Grandmother’s journey. Then time travels to his and his Mom’s life years later as they become acclimated in the United States.
I was impressed and inspired by Vuong’s ability to so thoroughly capture such an immense range of emotion in this work. At times, I felt invigorated and joyous, while at other times I felt deep sadness and longing. It’s well worth your time to read this novel, even if it does not seem like something you would normally gravitate to. The writing is absolutely beautiful and poetic. It’s relatable, touching a personal chord with me. As well as all those who have had to reckon with the sacrifices made by our families in order to come to this country and build a better future for generations to come.
I think that Vuong’s novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is an important addition to the body of literature existing within the U.S. immigrant experience, particularly within Asian American families. It’s ultimately a story of family and love, told through language as beautiful and intricate as any other. As I mentioned at the outset, I believe that the novel will prove to be a worthwhile read. Not only for those interested in Asian American literature but also for those who are looking for good stories to enjoy on their own.