On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

A Novel

Hardcover, 256 pages

English language

Published Oct. 29, 2019 by Penguin Random House.


View on OpenLibrary

5 stars (2 reviews)

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 …

7 editions

Beauty despite violence

5 stars

This novel by Ocean Vuong is told from a first-person narrative as an autobiographical story written to the protagonist's mother. But using this as a device, it tells multiple stories simultaneously. Each is almost a parable, and none is independent of another. It takes place in the USA primarily.

The protagonist relates his coming into the world, his childhood, his first love, his violent youth, his grandmother's love for him (and her past life in Vietnam), and his experiences of grief. Entangled are the acts of violence of the Vietnam War, the estrangement of the protagonist from his two nations, drug addiction and abuse, philosophy and thoughts on how words find meaning. The story alone is uncomplicated, and ticks along at a pleasant pace, but the poetic undertones and masterful weaving of story with concept make it a wonderful experience. To paraphrase Vuong's words: This book is not created from …

avatar for kalayo

rated it

5 stars


  • Fiction, coming of age
  • Mothers and sons, fiction
  • Fiction, cultural heritage