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OCEAN VUONG reads from his debut novel ON EARTH WE'RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS with JADE CHANG

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous (Penguin Press)

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.

NOTE: As with all Skylight Books in-store events, this reading is free and open to the public (first come, first served). But because we're expecting a large crowd at this event, we'll be giving out numbered tickets to the signing line to keep things organized:

  • To get a ticket to the signing line, you must purchase a copy of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous here at Skylight Books. Tickets are available starting Wed, May 22, 2019. 
  • For all website orders for this event, be sure to leave a note in the Order Comments field that you would like a ticket and plan to attend the event.
  • Skylight's Friends with Benefits members get priority signing line tickets (and 20% off this and all other event books each month), so be sure to mention your membership (or join) when you order the book.

Praise for On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous:

“An epistolary ­masterpiece…Fearless, revelatory, extraordinary.” — Library Journal (starred review)
 
“[Vuong’s] first foray into fiction is poetic in the deepest sense—not merely on the level of language, but in its structure and its intelligence…The result is an uncategorizable hybrid of what reads like memoir, bildungsroman, and book-length poem. More important than labels, though, is the novel's earnest and open-hearted belief in the necessity of stories and language for our survival. A raw and incandescently written foray into fiction by one of our most gifted poets.” —Kirkus (starred review)

“Casting a truly literary spell, Vuong's tale of language and origin, beauty and the power of story, is an enrapturing first novel.” — Booklist (starred review)

“Vuong is masterly at creating indelible, impressionistic images…Vuong beautifully evokes [Trevor’s] seductive power over Little Dog: This is some of the most moving writing I’ve read about two boys experimenting together…The book is brilliant in the way it pays attention not to what our thoughts make us feel, but to what our feelings make us think. To what kinds of truth does feeling lead? Oscar Wilde famously quipped that sentimentalism is wanting to have an emotion without paying for it, but Little Dog has paid and paid, and the truths arrived at in this book are valuable precisely because they are steeped in feeling.” —Justin Torres, The New York Times Book Review

“The novel is expansive and introspective, fragmented and dreamlike, a coming of age tale conveyed in images and anecdotes and explorations…Just as he fuels his prose with his poetry, Vuong takes what he needs from lived experience to animate his storytelling with visceral beauty and a strain of what feels like uncut truth…‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ is a book of sustained beauty and lyricism, earnest and relentless, a series of high notes that trembles exquisitely almost without break… For the duration of this marvelous novel, Vuong holds our gaze and fills it with what he wills — the migration of butterflies, love in a tobacco barn, purple flowers gathered on a highway.” —Steph Cha, Los Angeles Times

“A bruised, breathtaking love letter never meant to be sent. A powerful testimony to magic and loss. A marvel.” —Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf

“This is one of the best novels I’ve ever read. I always want my favorite poets to write novels and here it’s happened. Ocean Vuong is a master. This book a masterpiece. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is an ode to loss and struggle, to being a Vietnamese American, to Hartford, Connecticut, and it’s a compassionate epistolary ode to a mother who may or may not know how to read. I dog-eared so many pages the book almost collapsed—I almost did.” —Tommy Orange, author of There There
 
“On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous will be described — rightly—as luminous, shattering, urgent, necessary. But the word I keep circling back to is raw: that's how powerful the emotions here are, and how you'll feel after reading it – scoured down to bone. With a poet's precision, Ocean Vuong examines whether putting words to one's experience can bridge wounds that span generations, and whether it's ever possible to be truly heard by those we love most.” —Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere
 
“This book—gorgeous is right there in the title—finds incredible, aching beauty in the deep observation of love in many forms. Ocean Vuong's debut novel contains all the power of his poetry, and I finished the book knowing that we are seeing only the very beginning of his truly magnificent talent.” —Emma Straub, author of Modern Lovers and The Vacationers
 
“Ocean Vuong runs up against the limits of language—this book is addressed to a mother who cannot read it—and expands our sense of what literature can make visible, thinkable, felt across borders and generations and genres. This is a courageous, embodied inquiry into the tangle of colonial and personal histories. It is also a gorgeous argument for astonishment over irony—for the transformative possibilities of love.” —Ben Lerner, author of Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04
 
“One is not often given the chance to apply words like “brilliant” and “remarkable” to any novels, certainly not first novels.  Thank you, Ocean Vuong, for this brilliant and remarkable first novel.” —Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours

Ocean Vuong is the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds, winner of the Whiting Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His writings have also been featured in The AtlanticHarper'sThe NationNew RepublicThe New Yorker, and The New York Times. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is his first novel.

Ocean Vuong Author Photo by Tom Hines

Jade Chang is the author of The Wangs vs. the World, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The Wangs has been named a New York Times Editors Choice as well as a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, Buzzfeed, Elle, NPR, and others, and was the winner of the VCU Cabell First Novel Award. The Wangs will be published in 12 countries and NPR said this: "Her book is unrelentingly fun, but it is also raw and profane—a story of fierce pride, fierce anger, and even fiercer love."

Jade Chang Author Photo by Emma McIntryre

Event date: 
Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780525562023
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Press - June 4th, 2019

The Wangs vs. the World Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9781328745538
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mariner Books - June 6th, 2017