24 AUGUST 2020
We were thrilled with the success of the first YS book club and received some great suggestions for the next pick. We went with Ciara Starrett’s suggestion and met on Wednesday 5th August 2020 via Zoom to discuss the beautifully lyrical, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong.
Freeman Dhara Snowden reports: Ocean Vuong is a poet and fiction writer whose works explore the ongoing trauma of war and conditions of exile with tragic eloquence and clarity. The child of illiterate rice farmers from rural Vietnam, Vuong came to the United States as a refugee with his family at the age of two. His poetry is infused with the rhythm, cadences, and imagery of rural Vietnamese oral storytelling and folkloric traditions married to a restless experimentation with the English language. Still early in his career, Vuong is a vital new literary voice demonstrating mastery of multiple poetic registers while addressing the effects of intergenerational trauma, the refugee experience, and the complexities of identity and desire.
Vuong explores themes of loss, survival, and the bridging of disparate worlds through language in his novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019) is a love letter from Vietnamese-American son “Little Dog” to his mum Rose, whose illiteracy means she will never read it. Sitting in the murkiness between fiction and memoir, On Earth... sees Little Dog telling Rose their story. How she was conceived in a brothel by a soon-to-disappear American soldier during the Vietnam War. How she married a man who beat her until her skin turned purple. How the family fled a refugee camp, when Little Dog was a toddler, to Hartford, Connecticut to find a better life.
“That time when I was five or six and, playing a prank, leapt out at you from behind the hallway door, shouting, "Boom!" You screamed, face raked and twisted, then burst into sobs, clutched your chest as you leaned against the door, gasping. I stood bewildered, my toy army helmet tilted on my head. I was an American boy parroting what I saw on TV. I didn’t know that the war was still inside you, that there was a war to begin with, that once it enters you it never leaves—but merely echoes, a sound forming the face of your own son.”
Why we think you should give this book a read:
Available in paperback, £8.99
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Number of pages: 256
For our next instalment, we’ve selected, The Long Call, by Anne Cleeves. The first in a new Devon-set crime series from the accomplished creator of the Shetland and Vera novels, The Long Call sees a troubled detective returning to the community he turned his back on. Plotted with Cleeves’ customary deft skill and introducing a complex, flawed new protagonist, The Long Call bodes very well for this fresh mystery series.
We encourage you to read (or listen) to the book and join us for at 8pm on Thursday 1st October.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!