Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

BOOK REVIEW On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
by Lauren Emily Whalen
2019-07-23

This article shared 2812 times since Tue Jul 23, 2019
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Book by Ocean Vuong. $26; Penguin Press; 256 pages

One quote on author Ocean Vuong's website refers to him as "the Walt Whitman of Vietnamese-American literature." Vuong's poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, was a New York Times Top 10 book of 2016, the recipient of two literary awards and nominated for several others. Born in Saigon and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, now an assistant professor in University of Massachusetts-Amherst's MFA program, he's both an American success story and a wry observer of immigrant trauma that can manifest in destruction.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is Vuong's debut novel, named one of the most anticipated novels of 2019 by O, The Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times and many more. Starred reviews abounded and bestselling authors Celeste Ng and Tommy Orange raved. Vuong toured the country in June after the novel's release.

Sadly, the book itself is much ado about nothing. Though beautifully written in Vuong's signature poetic voice, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is a fast read with a forgettable narrative. Inspired by Vuong's own experiences and written in a world of his own making, most of the novel's pivotal events ( parental abuse, first love, shared trauma ) are written in ways everyone has read before.

The book is structured as a long letter from the narrator Little Dog to his mother, who cannot read due to violence invading her Vietnamese home as a school-age child. Both Little Dog's mother and grandmother hold disturbing memories inside: offspring who didn't survive, sex work as the only means of putting food on the table, deceiving loved ones to make a better life for their families. In the case of Little Dog's mother, the bad thoughts are made plain in beatings and tough love that feels like just the opposite. As Little Dog comes of age in hardscrabble Hartford, he realizes that he's different from his peers and embarks on a relationship with another closeted teenager whose home life is even more dire.

On Earth shines brightest when Vuong returns to his poetic roots. In an elegy to a friend who passed away too young, he uses free verse rather than prose and the results are a stunning tribute that's highly relatable to anyone experiencing grief. Vuong uses poetry a few other times in the novel, and it's there his voice feels most authentic.

The rest of the book is not nearly as strong. Though the plot points are compelling, Vuong's depiction of them often descends into cliché ( his first lover lives in a trailer with his abusive drug addict father, typical of much fiction featuring gay teens in small towns ). Perhaps Vuong is uncomfortable with prose and therefore describes the most unique parts of Little Dog's life in the ways every reader will expect.

Poetry and prose are each their own beast, and it's a rare writer who can do both well. Vuong may have fared better by formatting On Earth as a novel of poems and letting his unique perspective come through. As it is, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is just as the title says: there's beauty to be found in Vuong's debut novel, but it's fleeting.

For more about the author, visit oceanvuong.com .


This article shared 2812 times since Tue Jul 23, 2019
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Author and educator Sarah Chadwick talks new book on female sexuality 2021-02-21
- Sarah Chadwick's debut book, The Sweetness of Venus: A History of the Clitoris, was the result of her desire to understand the status of female sexuality in the West from an historical perspective. During Chadwick's research, ...


Gay News

Pride and Less Prejudice to host panel on LGBTQ media representation March 20 2021-02-21
- On Saturday, March 20, at 1 p.m. CT, Pride and Less Prejudice (PLP)—which provides free, age-appropriate, LGBTQ-inclusive books to pre-K-3rd grade students in order to foster LGBTQ inclusivity and acceptance—will ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Virginia items, Marriott CEO, Black LGBTQ+ icons, trans kids' book 2021-02-21
- Virginia lawmakers are about to roll back a state law that allows faith-based adoption and foster-care agencies to refuse service to LGBTQ families, VirginiaMercury.com reported. The legislation has spurred heated ...


Gay News

Writer on AIDS activism in the Black church honored 2021-02-10
--From a press release - The LGBTQ Religious Archives Network (LGBTQ-RAN) honors Dr. Dan Royles with the 2020-21 LGBTQ Religious History Award. The review jury selected Royles' "There Is a Balm in Gilead: AIDS Activism in the Black Church" from among ...


Gay News

Five Worth Finding: LGBTQ authors, paczki, skin-care items, Keto Mylk 2021-02-05
- —Tempest, by Ryan Meyer (NothingPeak.com): In Tempest, young LGBTQ writer Meyer departs from the horror themes in his 2018 poetry collection, Haunt. Using fictional vignettes and surreal personal accounts, he ...


Gay News

COVID Chicago promotes website that helps users find, book vaccination appointments 2021-02-03
- The city of Chicago is promoting a national website that will allow people to find and schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments, The Chicago Tribune reported. The site, ZocDoc.com/vaccine, is run by an outside provider. It will allow ...


Gay News

BOOKS Ta-Nehisi Coates at Printers Row Lit Fest on Sept. 11-12 2021-02-03
- Printers Row Lit Fest—the largest free outdoor literary showcase in the Midwest—is slated to return for its 36th year with 100% free programming for book lovers Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 11-12, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., in Chicago's historic Printers ...


Gay News

Book helps families with kids discuss gender roles, same gender attraction 2021-01-29
--From a press release - A new book, Pepito Has a Doll, is centered on the experience of a shy young boy who lives with his grandmother. Pepito has only one friend, his doll Lola, until Miguel appears and they begin a joyful adventure together. Bilingual ...


Gay News

Author to hold talk about Chicago LGBTQ press on Feb. 9 2021-01-27
- Rick Karlin—author of Paper Cuts: My Life in Chicago's Volatile LGBTQ Press—will discuss his experiences in the Chicago LGBTQ press as presented in the book on Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 6:30 p.m. via a video conference. ...


Gay News

BOOKS Author examines James Beard's life in 'The Man Who Ate Too Much' 2021-01-24
- Any established person in the food/restaurant industry or true foodie has surely heard of James Beard (1903-85), who many feel revolutionized cuisine in the United States more than any other individual. In The Man Who Ate ...


Gay News

Research shows racial bias denied social reformer Ada S. McKinley her due in history 2021-01-19
--From a press release - (Jan. 19, 2021; Chicago, Ill.) Newly released scholarly research about Chicago social reformer Ada S. McKinley indicates her contributions to Chicago and to the field of human services have been ignored and marginalized due to her ...


Gay News

'Mombian Database' released 2021-01-13
- Mombian columnist Dana Rudolph has released the Mombian Database of LGBTQ Family Books, Media, and More, with more than 500 books, music albums, movies, games and toys for and about LGBTQ families. The site offers multiple ...


Gay News

Five Worth Finding: Workout gear, $2 subs, LGBTQ book 2021-01-11
- 1. Lived Experience: Reflections on LGBTQ Life: "Lived Experience," in this case, refers to 60 LGBTQ people in this country who are older than 50—those who especially have so much to offer. This is a generation ...


Gay News

BOOKS: The best of 2020 2020-12-23
- You've got a little extra time this month, and you don't want to waste it. You want to read something good, the possibilities are endless, and the best place to begin is with these Best Books ...


Gay News

American Writers Museum launches virtual American Voices exhibit 2020-12-07
--From a press release - (CHICAGO - December 7, 2020) - The American Writers Museum (AWM) today announced the launch of a new website NationofWriters.org, an online resource featuring a virtual American Voices exhibit, educational ...


 



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.