ABOUT THE BOOK

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.

Read an excerpt. Plus, the 2014 poem that shares the novel’s name, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous“:

Tell me it was for the hunger
& nothing less. For hunger is to give

the body what it knows

it cannot keep.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ocean Vuong is the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, out from Penguin Press (2019) and forthcoming in 26 languages worldwide. A recipient of a 2019 MacArthur “Genius” Grant, he is also the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. A Ruth Lilly fellow from the Poetry Foundation, his honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, The Elizabeth George Foundation, The Academy of American Poets, and the Pushcart Prize. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he serves as an Assistant Professor in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at UMass-Amherst.

Get Into It

The Paris Review

Interview with Ocean Vuong

“I think that’s what a novel is, at its core, one person trying to know themselves so thoroughly that they realize, in the end, it was the times they lived in, the people they touched and learned from, that made them real.”

The New Yorker

Review: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

For many immigrants, the best-case scenario is that their children will never really understand them.

Ocean Vuong Wrote His Debut Novel in a Closet
Ocean Vuong on "Late Night with Seth Myers"