On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

This book made me feel in my bones that truth lies somewhere between fact and fiction. Or just in fiction.

This book made me feel in my bones that meaning lies somewhere between pleasure and pain. Or just in pain.

This book wasn’t even a book for me, but an eight hour walk. Witnessing, listening to the letters of a young man to his mother.

The first time I ever cried from a book was the last time I read an epistolary novel – Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. That’s my favorite book right there.

But what makes Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous so beautiful is not just the devastating story or the detailed language, but the fact that these soul-bearing letters are written to a mother who can’t read, and can’t write back.

On top of that, Ocean Vuong doing the dramatic recording on audiobook was almost too much, but that’s what Oceans do: overwhelm, exhilarate, depress, and empower me all at once. 

Every time he sounded like he was on the verge of tears, which was most of the time, I found myself on the verge of tears too. By the end though I was actually crying. I didn’t even know what to do with myself for days after finishing it.

This book was SO REAL that I had to remind myself like twenty times that it’s fiction. And yet I took that as a lesson in the power of poetry. I learned so much about identity and race and masculinity and sexuality and land and why we leave and legacy and myself and more.

I don’t know when I’m going to be ready to return to this book, but I know it’s one to reread again and again because I feel more human just for experiencing it once.

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