A Letter to My Mother That She Will Never Read

Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is chosen On Earth Nosotros’re Briefly Gorgeous.


Ocean Vuong - On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous The challenges of the mother-son relationship, dealing with trauma, and the experience of the Vietnamese immigrant in America are all themes present in the debut novel from poet Ocean Vuong.

On Globe Nosotros’re Briefly Gorgeous largely takes the form of a letter a son writes his mother, who, before she emigrated to the U.S., had endured some intense trauma during the war in Vietnam.

Vuong says the letter is an exercise in the son hoping to be understood – and perhaps an exercise solely for himself because his female parent tin can’t read.

In the audio above, Vuong tells Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty about the novel and how writing prose was incredibly different than writing poesy.

Vuong will be in Houston for an consequence at Brazos Bookstore tonight at 7.

Conversation HIGHLIGHTS:

Shifting From Poetry To Prose

Until now, Vuong had been known for his poetry. His 2016 drove Nighttime Sky with Get out Wounds won the T.Southward. Eliot Prize.

He says the departure between writing poetry and writing prose meant spending a lot more time with a sure subject thing and certain characters.

“One thing that I did not wait was that the writing of a novel would offset to haunt me,” Vuong said. “You know, you open up a portal of an unabridged world, and, earlier you know it, your periphery is haunted by that world. And I but kept thinking about these characters and this earth and where they’re coming from, and I was living one-half in this earth and half in some other.”

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Writing A Alphabetic character No Ane Volition Read

Vuong says he was fascinated by the thought of his main character, a boy called Little Canis familiaris, writing his female parent a letter knowing she can’t read it.

“It’due south like a message in a bottle thrown into an sea — pardon the pun — that might never exist found,” he said. “And I think that futility is actually what drove me to write the novel. I think as Americans we often ask ourselves ‘Does my vocalisation matter? Volition I exist heard? Does my vote count?’”

“But I as well think that on the private, domestic, personal level those questions are still very much potent and urgent for us. ‘Does the person I dear almost sympathise me? I spend my whole life with them, in proximity with them. What if I spend this whole life and I’m withal somehow a stranger to them?’ So I think that crunch of language — that futility of using language to get to know one another — that danger and that anxiety is withal very present in our American landscape.”

Ocean Vuong Poetry Reading
Poet Body of water Vuong reads from his book Night Sky with Leave Wounds in 2017.

Revelations On The Female parent-Son Human relationship

Vuong says he had some realizations near the complexities of the mother-son relationship while writing the novel.

“Even though you have words like ‘mother’ and ‘son,’ it doesn’t mean that love and forgiveness are a given,” he said. “Only y’all have to work for those things — even with such tight familiar bonds y’all take to work, and that those words, in the finish of the day, ‘honey’ and ‘forgiveness’ they are verbs. They are words that happen through action. And these are the things that these characters piece of work to find out. Are they deserving of this love? Are they deserving of each other, and how ultimately do they heal from 1 some other?”

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Depicting The Vietnamese Immigrant Experience

Vuong, who was born in Vietnam and immigrated with his mother to the United States, wanted to use the novel to show people another side of the Vietnamese immigrant experience.

“If you pass us working in blast salons, if you laissez passer the Pho restaurants, you might see us on the outside,” Vuong said. “And I call back what this novel hopes to practice is allow Americans to follow Vietnamese life all the way home after the business organization closes, after the Pho is cleared, the nails are done, yous tin follow usa home and come across how we’ve been living and surviving brilliantly in this country for the by twoscore years.”

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