On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

As everyone knows by now, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is our One Book Chelmsford 2022 title.

The narrator of the story is Little Dog, a young Vietnamese American, and is written as a letter to his mother. In it, he tells the story of his family – from his grandmother to his mother to himself – encompassing their hardships in Vietnam, their immigration to Hartford CT, and Little Dog’s childhood which was filled with both love and abuse.  The story is painful and powerful, in part because Little Dog’s mother is illiterate, having left school at age seven, and will likely never read the letter.  In fact, he feels that the impossibility of her reading it is what allows him to write it.  It is a story about family, about self-discovery and acceptance, and about the redemptive power of storytelling.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction and was nominated for the National Book Award.  Vuong is also a critically acclaimed poet, with a new collection, Time Is a Mother, due out this month.  We look forward to hosting Ocean Vuong in May – be sure to reserve yourself a spot for this web event:  A Conversation with Ocean Vuong, Thursday May 26 at 7:00 PM.

After the publication of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong was interviewed many times about the process of writing the novel, and the choices he made in language and style. If you are struggling with the complexity or the weight of this year’s choice, it may help to watch some of the appearances to appreciate the artist and process behind the book. Here are some we suggest:

We also have other virtual events leading up to the that will help us think about some of the themes of the book.  They include programs about Writing Family Stories, Vietnam Video and Discussion, and Stories of the Vietnamese Diaspora.

Also, most of our book groups have taken a month off from their usual schedule to read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.  Every book group is always glad to welcome new members, so if you want to talk about this moving and complex novel, feel free to join in on a discussion that fits your schedule:

And here is a list of questions about the book you may find helpful for conversation: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/600633/on-earth-were-briefly-gorgeous-by-ocean-vuong/9780525562047/readers-guide/

Lastly, Jess and Deanna talk about On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous in the latest installment of Bookmarked!  They discuss several of the main themes of the novel, as well as offer some great readalike suggestions.

We still have copies of our One Book title available, courtesy of the Friends of the Library.  Stop by the library to get one and join the conversation!