One Book 2022: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

It’s time!  One Book 2022 is here!  Starting this week, you can stop by the library to pick up your copy of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Sign up to join us on Zoom for his visit on Thursday, May 26 at 7:00 pm when he’ll be in conversation with poet, Professor Sandra Lim of UMass Lowell.

The narrator of this story is Little Dog, a young Vietnamese American. It is written as a letter to his mother and 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.  Little Dog is using the letter as a way to process his memories – at one point he writes, “Memory is a choice” – and that choice will perhaps allow for healing and forgiveness.  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 a poet – his other two books are Night Sky With Exit Wounds and Time Is a Mother (coming in April) – and you can see this in the rich, lyrical, and evocative language he uses throughout the novel.

A few of us have listened to the audio version of On Earth We’re Briefly GorgeousIt is read by Ocean Vuong himself, which lends another layer of context and complexity to the narrative.  If you are inclined to listen to audiobooks, it is available through Overdrive.


We will be celebrating On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous over the coming months. Stay tuned for programming, events, and more reading suggestions from the readers advisory team.

Now it is time to get reading Chelmsford – stop by and get your copy today!