On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong | Book Review

on earth we're briefly gorgeous ocean vuong


Today, April 8, I finished a gorgeous book. Based on the day I started tracking my reading in Goodreads, this book made into my 185th book. Cool! This book will be a slightly review combined with some random thoughts  I had when I read this book.

I read this book in e-book form and audiobook version. The audiobook is narrated by author, Ocean Vuong, and it’s around 6 hours long, while the book is around 250-ish pages. It took me 2 days to finish the whole book.

First of all, I On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is on my 22 Books I Want to Read on 2022, because I heard many good things about this book, and I want to read more books written by Asian authors. As you might know, this month I’m participating on Orilium Spring Equinox readathon and I have set my 4 books to read for the whole semester in the academy. Then there are also quests to earn more points and guild reputation. Since there is a huge time difference between my place and the readathon host’s, I missed some of the limited quests posted earlier this month. But, this time I found 3 new quests that are unlimited (no time limit to register and no participant limit). One of them is Helping Someone on Conjuration Notes, with the prompt : steal a book from someone’s TBR. For this quest, I watched Jananie’s April TBR on thisstoryaintover channel, and she had On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous as her April TBR. So, yeah, I stole this book from her TBR while at the same time fulfilling my 2022 Books Challenge.


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong


Length                            : 6 hours (approx) / 250 pages

Narrator                          : Ocean Vuong

Date released                  : June 4, 2019

Date read                        : April 7 – 8, 2022

Goodreads rating           : 4,05

My rating                      : 5,00

Keywords                      : Adult, Literary Fiction, Poetry, LGBT, Asian Literature,, Epistolary,

   Vietnamese characters, Vietnamese-American MC,

Trigger Warning            : physical abuse, emotional abuse, drug addiction, bullying, death,

                                         homophobia, cancer, racism, parental abuse, trauma, war

Where to read/listen      : Libby, Amazon Kindle, Scribd

Get the physical copy    : Periplus Paperback, Book Depository Hardcover 

You'll also find it on      : Gramedia Digital / Gramedia Official Store

Indonesian title              : On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous - Di Semesta Ini Kita Pernah Gemilang

Indonesian publisher     : Gramedia

Indonesian translator     : Tanti Lesmana


Blurb :

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.

With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.” (Goodreads)


My Thoughts :

It’s one of beautifully written books I read this year, and I’m glad I chose this book to read this month (and made it into my 185th book). As you have read on the blurb on Goodreads, this book takes the epistolary form which is a letter from a son to his mother who can not read. The whole book is a letter, and you will find I and you mentioned the most inside this book. It’s not an ordinary letter, nor a flowery Classical one. It’s a poetic letter telling his mother about life. Their past, childhood, Vietnam, past war, trauma, silence, untold things, lost of beloved people, sexual orientation, witnessing violence, being harassed, exploring what it is to be alive, to be happy, to be sad, to love, and to think something is worthy, injustice related to race, how someone became drug addict and many other things.


It made me cry.


When a book touched the realm of love between family members, it always makes me cry.


“Dear Ma, I am writing to reach you—even if each word I put down is one word further from where you are.”


It feels like a letter from someone who has seen everything and risen above them and then wanted to tell what he saw from above. It’s not a letter from a son who pours every sadness and judgement and hatred he felt to his mother in the hope that his mother would answer to validate everything he felt. No. It’s the author wanting to tell his mother what he thought, what he felt and experienced to his mother. He didn’t want his mother to validate him or to take any action. 


He made conclusion, and he shared it.


You, the mother, may agree with it, may reject it, or both. Whatever reaction you give, he, the son will always love you.


If you listen to the audiobook, you will then know there are parts where Vuong reads in slower pace while the others in faster and sharper tone. The dynamic of the pace and tone in the audiobook, his voice and how he reads word by word are beautiful.

When I read this part "I looked up—and it was dawn. It was over. I was blazed in the blood of light." I was listening to 黎明 (Dawn) by Johnny's WEST. And I think that this beautiful song can be a theme song for several books including this book. It made me cry (again).


"The thing is, I don’t want my sadness to be othered from me just as I don’t want my happiness to be othered. They’re both mine."


Lastly, this book definitely one of my favourite books of 2022 and I might re-listen to the audiobook version. So, have you read this book? Tell me your thoughts about this beautiful book.


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