On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous | Ocean Vuong

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous | Ocean Vuong | BUY BOOK


Review By Sophie | State Street Bookstore

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

In this semi-autobiographical novel, Ocean Vuong shares his experience and observations as a poor, queer Vietnamese immigrant spending his childhood in the United States. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a long letter that the protagonist, Little Dog, has written to his illiterate mother who fled war in Vietnam with her family in search of a better life.

In his letter, Little Dog reflects on the otherness he has felt throughout his life due to his marginalization and the suffocating nature of life and identity in the United States. Little Dog’s story is written in Ocean Vuong’s breathtaking prose, each sentence packed with meaning and begging to be reread multiple times in order to be fully appreciated. From the scenes of wartime Vietnam to the journey of Little Dog’s first love, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is sure to move any reader with its themes of self discovery, family trauma, relationships, and what it means to be alive.


Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction, the Carnegie Medal in Fiction, the 2019 Aspen Words Literacy Prize, and the PEN/Hemingway Debut Novel Award

Shortlisted for the 2019 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

Winner of the 2019 New England Book Award for Fiction!

Named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by VultureEntertainment 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.

Sophie Devarenne is a bookseller at our State Street location. Her favorite book at the moment is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction). She says the story is a perfect mix of captivating writing, suspense, and introspection with a cast of remarkably real and lovable characters.