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More. Her “tongue made obsolete by gunfire,” she begs to be allowed back into her village. The narrative occasionally extends backward, to visions of Little Dog’s mother and grandmother in Vietnam, before he was born, and it briefly reaches forward, in a few passages that signal that Little Dog has become a writer. Throughout the book, vignettes of his mistreatment light up and go out swiftly, like matches. Poems online " Someday I'll Love Ocean Vuong," The New Yorker " Aubade With Burning City"; "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous," Poetry Magazine [16], His first chapbook, Burnings (Sibling Rivalry Press), was a 2011 "Over The Rainbow" selection for notable books on nonheterosexuality by the American Library Association. You’re knockin’ ’em dead.” He thinks of other writers: “They will want you to succeed, but never more than them. In the context of those conferences, Vuong’s story seems extraordinary. The boys slap Little Dog, and the instigator barks, “Say my name then. [20] His first novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, was published by Penguin Press on June 4, 2019. In another sequence, a white classmate corners Little Dog on the school bus, saying, “Look at me when I’m talking to you.” “He was only nine but had already mastered the dialect of damaged American fathers,” Vuong writes. Ocean Vuong Poet/New York City For rewriting the lines of nationalism. [9][10] He received his M.F.A. Sign up for the Books & Fiction newsletter. There is a staggering tenderness in the way that Little Dog holds all of this within himself, absorbing it and refusing to pass it on. The poet is Ocean Vuong. Vuong has now published a novel, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” (Penguin Press), featuring a narrator whose circumstances closely resemble, and are often indistinguishable from, his own. His grandfather had gone back to visit home in the US but was unable to return when the Fall of Saigon happened. During a conversation with a customer, Vuong's mother pronounced the word "beach" as "bitch". All rights reserved. When he’s older, Little Dog calls a factory manager and asks him to cut his mother’s hours, because she has been falling asleep in the bathtub from exhaustion, and he is worried she will drown. “Now flap. In one poem, Vuong writes, “An American soldier fucked a Vietnamese farmgirl. [21], In August 2020, Vuong was revealed as the seventh writer to contribute to the Future Library project. / Thus I exist. “Say amen. (A version of the first chapter was published, two years ago, as memoir, by this magazine.) / I lost it all with my eyes / wide open.”, Many of the poems concern Vuong’s father, or an idea of him—he was absent for much of Vuong’s upbringing. In an extended scene, Little Dog’s grandmother stands with Rose in her arms at a checkpoint manned by American soldiers. About. Get book recommendations, fiction, poetry, and dispatches from the world of literature in your in-box. To revisit this article, select My⁠ ⁠Account, then View saved stories. In order to survive, Little Dog has to receive and reject another kind of violence, too: he must see his mother through the American eyes that scan her for weakness and incompetence and, at best, disregard her, the way that evil spirits might ignore a child named for a little dog. In his poems, he often explores transformation, desire, and violent loss. He wears fentanyl patches and John Deere hats; he laces his joints with cocaine and crashes his father’s pickup truck. Eliot Prize for his poetry. At the age of 25, Vuong is the author of two chapbooks: NO (YesYes Books, 2013) and BURNINGS (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2010), both of which were selected by the American Library Association’s “Over The Rainbow” list of recommended LGBT reading. Yeah, lye dat, baby. / So I entered. Yor daddy? He is thirty years old, and teaches in the M.F.A. [2] His debut novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, was published in 2019. Ocean Vuong (born Vương Quốc Vinh,[1] Vietnamese: [vɨəŋ˧ kuək˧˥ viɲ˧]; October 14, 1988) is a Vietnamese American poet, essayist and novelist. “ Vuong is a mightily gifted observer... moving and rarely less than excellent. In the first chapter, monarch butterflies migrate south, but only “their children return; only the future revisits the past.” Little Dog imagines the monarchs fleeing “not winter but the napalm clouds of your childhood in Vietnam,” travelling for thousands of miles until “you can no longer fathom the explosion they came from, only a family of butterflies floating in clean, cool air, their wings finally, after so many conflagrations, fireproof.” The word “fireproof” lights up a constellation of links between the butterflies and Little Dog’s mother, who treats herself to a yellow-tag sale at Goodwill, and holds up a white dress to show her son, asking if the fabric will be safe for her to wear. [2][5][6][4] Vuong, who suspects dyslexia runs in his family,[4] was the first in his family to learn to read,[6] at the age of eleven. Other boys crowd around, “sensing entertainment,” the scent of “lavender and lilac” rising from the fabric softener in their clothes. Maybe then, in that life and in this future, you’ll find this book and you’ll know what happened to us. He will not crouch around an electric burner and a cauldron of pho in the back room, his life contained in this “place where dreams become the calcified knowledge of what it means to be awake in American bones—with or without citizenship—aching, toxic, and underpaid.”, Like Vuong’s poetry, the novel is full of animal imagery. In “Threshold,” which opens the collection, he writes, “I didn’t know the cost / of entering a song—was to lose / your way back. His grandfather had gone back to visit home in the US but was unable to return when the Fall of Saigonhappened. The women moo and shake their butts, making a joke of themselves for the butchers; they leave with an armful of Wonder Bread and mayonnaise that Rose has mistaken for butter. The poet was “not born / but crawled, headfirst— / into the hunger of dogs.” In “Threshold,” his father, mid-shower, listens for Vuong’s “clutched breath” behind the bathroom door that separates them, a “dark colt paused in downpour.” There is a sexual encounter with a boy: “My thrashing beneath you / like a sparrow stunned / with falling.” He describes walking up to a man lighting a cigarette on the stoop of a brownstone on a cold and lonely Thanksgiving in Brooklyn. Reading “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” can feel like watching an act of endurance art, or a slow, strange piece of magic in which bones become sonatas, to borrow one of Vuong’s metaphors. As nativism seizes center stage in U.S. political discourse, Ocean Vuong serves as a reminder of how essential immigrant voices are to the American cultural landscape. After learning the definition of the word ocean—the most massive classified body of water, such as the Pacific Ocean, which connects the United States and Vietnam—she renamed him Ocean. His father abandoned his family after that. The Novel. [23] He is a Kundiman fellow. Thus my mother exists. Little Dog’s story commutes his family’s sentence: it turns his life into words that might act as the culmination of all this cruelty, that might allow his grandmother and his mother to be openly broken—to be loved, as so few people are in this country, because they have been weakened, because they were weak. Resources. His grandmother had separated his mother and aunts in orphanages, conce… Little Dog finishes high school. The customer suggested she use the word "ocean" to substitute for "beach". Came to the U.S. with his family at age 2. Discussing his contribution to the project, Vuong opined that, "So much of publishing is about seeing your name in the world, but this is the opposite, putting the future ghost of you forward. That is a heady thing to write towards, so I will sit with it a while.”, Currently, Vuong lives in Northampton, Massachusetts,[23] and is an assistant professor in the MFA Program for Writers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. And then: “I rose to my knees, half covered my face, bracing.”. / I telling yu . Appearances. “ ‘Yoo Et Aye numbuh won,’ ” she says, feebly, “urine still dripping down her ankles.” When Rose is five, a napalm bomb destroys her school, and her education ends. He studies literature. It would allow him to make visible the memory of his mother breaking a pencil as she wrote “a b c” over and over, trying to teach herself the alphabet, the “b bursting its belly / as dark dust blows / through a blue-lined sky,” nail-salon chemicals emanating from the sweat that seeps through her pink “I ♥ NY” T-shirt. Photograph: Doug Levy/The Observer ... His first novel also draws on elements of his life, to tell the coming-of-age …

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