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On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Ocean Vuong

15This is a heartbreakingly poetic novel that painfully observed and explored themes of identity, displacement, addiction, race, homosexuality and class. Little Dog tells his own story of family history, rooted in Vietnam during times of war, through a letter to his illiterate mother. His telling of a story, that he knows will not be heard, is so poignant and touching. For me, the excellence of this novel lies in the beauty of his prose rather than the narrative plot. Vuong’s novel follows a non-linear structure, and although that means it’s not very gripping, as a piece of auto-fiction, the merit of the novel can be found in its truthfulness, intimacy and emotion.

The novel’s fragmentary nature evokes the trauma and pain that lies at the centre of Little Dog’s life and thus it’s about so much more than a story line. Vuong has a remarkable talent to disperse such a raw, delicate and devastating story the way he did. We must also recognise how important and necessary it is that a queer Asian American voice is being heard and thus this novel is definitely worth reading!

‘Let no one mistake us for the fruit of violence – but that violence, having passed through the fruit, failed to spoil it.’

Reviewed by Sarah Doyle