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Literature / On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

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"I am thinking of beauty again, how some things are hunted because we have deemed them beautiful. If, relative to the history of our planet, an individual life is so short, a blink, as they say, then to be gorgeous, even from the day you're born to the day you die, is to be gorgeous only briefly."
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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is the debut novel of poet Ocean Vuong. It was published in 2019.

The book is an Epistolary Novel about a young Vietnamese-American man called Little Dog, writing to his abusive illiterate mother Rose. The novel chronicles the story of their immigrant family, spanning from his grandmother Lan's experiences as a prostitute in the Vietnam war to Little Dog's own coming-of-age in Hartford, Connecticut.


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Tropes:

  • Asian Babymama: Played With. The Vietnamese Lan married a white American soldier and claimed that Rose was his daughter. Although they both know they are likely not really related, he has a decent relationship with his "grandson" Little Dog anyway.
  • Author Avatar: Little Dog's story greatly echoes the author's, as a Vietnamese immigrant to the US who struggles with his sexuality.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Little Dog details formative experiences that made him grow up, such as Lan's death, and his doomed romance with Trevor.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Trevor eventually becomes addicted to opioids and dies.
  • Epistolary Novel: The whole book is one long letter.
  • First Love: Little Dog's first love is a white boy named Trevor, whom he meets working at a tobacco farm for the summer.
  • Immigrant Parents: Little Dog's mother Rose and grandmother Lan emigrated to the US from Vietnam, and are fittingly outsiders in society. Little Dog is at odds with them because he was raised in America.
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  • Mixed Ancestry: Little Dog's mother Rose has striking features because she's the daughter of a Vietnamese woman and a white American soldier.

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