I don’t think anybody would be questioning Vuong’s status as a T. S. Eliot prize-winning poet after reading this – this epistolary novel flows like poetry and Vuong succeeds in conjuring up beauty in rage and suffering.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from son to a mother who cannot read, a brutally honest and stark exploration of growing up in America as the child of an immigrant. Touching on race, class, sexuality and masculinity, Vuong tells a powerful story closely resembling his own.
In line with Vietnamese tradition, the narrators parents call him Little Dog, naming him after something so worthless that evil spirits will ignore him. Little Dog grows up in Hartford, Connecticut, with his traumatized mother, who barely speaks English, and his grandmother, a schizophrenic. At 14-years old, Little Dog takes a job picking tobacco where he meets Trevor, the farm owners grandson, who quickly becomes an irreplaceable figure in Little Dog’s life.
This book is a wonderful accomplishment. Vuong’s command of language creates an intense sense of revisited memories, a yearning to be heard and roars with emotion. It took me a little while to get into it at first (hence the docking of a half star) but once I found the rhythm it was a wonderful read.
You can buy a copy of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous from your local independent bookshop through Hive here.
This wonderful novel spans generations and combines the power of 12 startling voices to share the experiences of British women of color. Mainly set in London we hear the story of a proud black lesbian playwright, her sassy super-feminist daughter and a sexually fluid millennial, just to name a couple.
It’s Black History Month in the UK and I decided this year I should finally get round to reading some of those incredible stories that I haven’t quite made time for yet.
I can definitely see why this books is a bit love it or hate it. The story of Dexter and Em is given to us in snapshots, Starting from their meeting at uni up to their late 30s, the book oozes sexual tension, but with an increasingly dark edge which reminded me of Sally Rooney’s novels.