What does Ocean Vuong do?

Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong was born in Vietnam, on October 14, 1988. This city used to be called Saigon. He shift to the United States when he was two years old. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, one of his best-selling books, is a letter from a son to his mother that he knows she won’t be able to read. The book was well liked by critics and won the New England Book Award for Fiction in 2019. This made Vuong one of the best writers of the decade.

Books of Poetry:

Vuong has also written two books of poetry: Night Sky with Exit Wounds, which won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2016, and Time is a Mother, which came out in 2022 and is about how he feels after his mom died of breast cancer in 2019.

How He grew Up and How He was with His Mother:

Vuong and his parents left Vietnam when he was only two years old. They moved to Glastonbury, Connecticut, which is near Hartford. No one in the family spoke English. When his father beat her, she got rid of him quickly. Vuong doesn’t know much about his dad, except that he went to jail because he did bad things. His mother couldn’t read, so she worked at a nail salon for 25 years to make money for the family.

School Life:

In the third grade, he read Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco. In a personal essay for New Yorker in 2017, he called it the “first book I loved.” Also in the piece, which was written as a letter to his mother, he wrote honestly on the first time his mother hit him, when he was four and the times, she threw a remote control and a gallon of milk at him.

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Mom His Whole World:

Even so, Vuong says his mom was his whole world. Vuong told NPR, “Everything I’ve done, I’ve done for her.” “For her, I went to school. She didn’t push me… The Asian “tiger mom” fits a certain type. My mom was never like this.”

Instead, she told him to be happy and told him that if things got really bad, he could always work at the desk next to her at the nail salon. “I had complete freedom to look around,” he said. “And I think, you know, that for me, that freedom was all about serving her.”

Education and Learning How to Write:

His relationship with his mother was complicated and had many layers. This may have been because she had post-traumatic stress disorder from living through the Vietnam War and then moving to a new country. Vuong promised to make his life better than what she had been through, so after going to Manchester Community College and then transferring to Pace University to study international marketing, he decided to go to business school. Vuong only stayed there for eight weeks. He told The Guardian that the education was like “learning to lie.”

Quit Business:

Vuong quit business school and went to Brooklyn College to study 19th-century American literature. At night, he felt better when he wrote poetry. He told the paper, “You get the last word of the day.” “The editor in your head, the nagging, insecure, and worried social editor, starts to retire. As soon as that editor goes to sleep, I can do whatever I want. The cat is playing.” He then went to New York University and got his MFA in poetry.

“A Night Sky with Exit Wounds”

Copper Canyon Press published a poetry book called Night Sky with Exit Wounds in 2016 that was made up of Vuong’s late-night “free writes.” The poems were submitted by anyone. The New York Times said that Vuong’s “sincerity and candour” in talking about his identity and experiences as both an immigrant and a gay man gave the book a “powerful emotional undertow.” It also talked about the “photographic clarity and a sense that all things on earth are temporary.”


The topics were as different as the fall of Saigon (“Aubade with Burning City”) and the killing of a gay couple in Dallas (“Seventh Circle of Earth”). A line from the poem “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong” is one of the most powerful. It says, “The most beautiful part of your body is where it’s going. “Don’t forget that being alone is still time spent with the world,” “Let every river be jealous of our mouths,” from “A Little Closer to the Edge.” Let each kiss hit the body like a season.”

Won Awardss:

The collection won a lot of awards, like the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Forward Arts Foundation’s Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.

Vuong didn’t always make money when he wrote poems. He told the Times that before he sold his first book, he made $8 an hour working at Panera Bread.

Mother Disease:

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, a “Genius” Award, and the Biggest Heartbreak Ever For Vuong, 2019 was a year of ups and downs. Not long before his first book came out in June of that year, he found out that his mother has a Stage 4 breast cancer. The book is an extension of an essay he wrote for The New Yorker that was a letter from a child to his uneducated mother. He started writing it as an experiment. His character in Little Dog is a made-up story about how he grew up based on his own life.

New York Times Bestseller:

The book came out on June 4, 2019, and quickly became a New York Times bestseller. It was recommend for a number of awards, including the National Book Award and the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel. It won the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award and the American Book Award.

In December 2020, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was adapted for the big screen. This was announced on an episode of A24’s podcast.

Queer Sexuality and Love:

In On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Little Dog spends a lot of time figuring out his sexuality and getting involved with another local boy. Their lives get mixed up with small-town drama, bigotry, and drugs, which leads to some very good times and some very bad times. Based on Vuong’s own childhood in Hartford, Connecticut, the book shows how hard it is to be gay in a family and community that have always looked down on gay relationships.

The Death of Vuong mother:

Rose, Vuong’s mother, couldn’t read or write, but she was his biggest fan. In his first bit for The New Yorker, he wrote, “The first time you came to my poetry reading. After that, I walked back to my seat next to you while everyone in the room stood up and applauded. You grabbed my hand and said, “I never thought I’d live to see so many old white people clapping for my son.” Your eyes were red and wet.

When he went to see her at the nail salon and saw her washing the feet of “one old white woman after another,” he realised how true that statement was. So it was sad when she died. He told NPR, “When I lost my mother, I thought, There’s no point.”

Level of Freedom:

But it also gave him a big idea about how to write. “I realised that even with all of my books, I was writing with different doubts or fears,” he said. “Every writer would say that they write what they want to write. But when their mother dies, they stop and think, “Wait a minute.” I don’t know about another level of freedom.”

Writing About His Mother:

That made him start writing again. “If you lose your mother, at least for me, you lose your North Star. I turned into such a kid,” he said. “Like any child, I looked at the blank page and asked, “How do I play?” Where do I find happiness?’ And the poems were the only thing I could turn to because they were the only place I could find pleasure in language.

Time is a Mother:

Time is a Mother, Vuong’s second poetry collection, came out on April 5, 2022. It is a collection of poems he wrote after an important event in his life. In it, he goes into detail about how the death of his mother made him feel and how the hole in his life changed the way he saw everything.

Shadow of a Sound:

In “Beautiful Short Loser,” one of his works, he asks, “Why is it that the past tense is always longer? Is it too much to say that the memory of a song is the shadow of a sound? When I can’t sleep, I sometimes imagine that Vincent van Gogh sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” into his cut ear and felt at peace.

Process of Writing The Book:

Vuong’s life changed as a result of the process of writing the book. Even though he has lost a lot, he tells NPR, “I see all of my humour, you know, my mischief, my tongue-in-cheek expression.” “I told her, ‘There he is.'” He’s here at last.”

Life at Home:

Vuong is an associate professor in the MFA programme for poets and writers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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