On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong review – portrait of the artist as a teenager


This post is by Tessa Hadley from Books | The Guardian


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A Vietnamese-American poet’s debut mines his extraordinary family story with passion and beauty

Ocean Vuong’s grandfather was a US soldier posted to Vietnam; there he fell in love with “an illiterate girl from the rice paddies”. They married and had three daughters, but while his grandfather was visiting family in the US, the fall of Saigon forced the family apart. His grandmother, fearing her children might be taken for adoption in the States, put her three girls into different orphanages, and they weren’t reunited until adulthood. Vuong’s mother worked washing hair in a Saigon salon, and gave birth to him when she was 18. She was discovered to be mixed race, and so banned from working by the new communist regime, before the whole family was evacuated to the Philippines under the sponsorship of a US charity. Vuong was still a toddler when, after months in a refugee camp, they ...