Bookshop Santa Cruz welcomes award winning author Ocean Vuong (Night Sky with Exit Wounds) in conversation with two-time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion sam sax for a reading and discussion of Vuong's highly acclaimed debut novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, named a best book of summer by The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Vulture, Thrillist, Entertainment Weekly, Elle, and more. This event is cosponsored by The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz.
"In this achingly beautiful novel, a young Vietnamese American writes a letter to his abusive mother about his struggle to find love and a sense of identity. In the process, he comes to appreciate the struggles of her life, too." —The Washington Post
The son serves as witness to his mother’s story, from her undeniable love for her family and her determination to survive in Vietnam, then in the United States, to her struggles with mental health and unflinching accounts of her physical abuse. As he unearths his family’s journey to present day, as he seeks understanding, it leads to an unforgettable revelation about what it means to tell your own story—and the silence of going unheard. What happens to language and storytelling as a tool of communication when a listener is not promised?
A masterful work of fiction, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is a brutally honest exploration of race, class, sexuality, masculinity, and aging and dying. Vuong asks questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in violence, addiction, and polarization, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness. Having survived trauma, how do we survive its aftermath? How do we make of it a kind of joy—and, above all, a kind of life? With stunning urgency and grace, Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are.
Read Kirkus Review's starred review here.
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 Atlantic, Harper's, The Nation, New Republic, The 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’s poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, marked the arrival of an incomparable talent. His searing, intimate poems, infused with his love of language, grappled with memories of war and displacement, coming of age as a young gay man, and daily life in Vietnam and America. Named a best book of 2016 by dozens of outlets from the New York Times to NPR to the San Francisco Chronicle, the collection was also the recipient of the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry and the Whiting Award. Readers and critics alike fell in love with Vuong’s lyricism and the deep humanity that runs through all his work.
sam sax is the author of the poetry collections bury it (Wesleyan University Press, 2018), winner of the James Laughlin Award, and madness (Penguin, 2017), winner of the National Poetry Series, selected by Terrance Hayes, and four chapbooks. He earned a BA from Oberlin College and an MFA in poetry from the University of Texas at Austin. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambda Literary, and the MacDowell Colony.
sax is a two-time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion, and winner of the Gulf Coast Prize, the Iowa Review Award, and the American Literary Award. His poems have appeared in BuzzFeed, the New York Times, Poetry magazine, Tin House, and other journals. sax serves as poetry editor of BOAAT Press. In 2018, sax was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.
This free event will take place at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Chairs for open seating are usually set up about an hour before the event begins. If you have any ADA accommodation requests, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org by June 15th.