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Not what I expected.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous - Ocean Vuong

On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong, author and narrator

Often, when an author reads his/her own book, the reading lacks something which a professional brings to the narration. This author reads too softly and emotively for my taste, and it tends to make the reader lose track of where each sentence begins and ends without complete concentration. In addition, the voice sounds very feminine, husky, and even sexy or perhaps enticing, which seemed inappropriate, at first. Then, as I listened on, I realized it might have been intentional since the main character, “Little Dog”, had issues with sexual identification.

Little Dog’s origin begins in Vietnam and the culture of the country plays a role in the narrative. The American intervention in the civil war there was presented fairly negatively as the American soldiers and their families are exposed as racists who are rather cruel to the inhabitants, taking advantage of the women, abusing them and their children.

The main character’s birth had heralded him as somewhat of a prodigal son. In the book, he is writing to his mother, although she is illiterate, perhaps to mend fences that have eroded between them. He has not turned out to be what his family had hoped he would be. He is not the masculine savior they imagined. The unrest and wars have prevented him from achieving the status they had hoped for and have exposed his “softness”. Through his imagined conversations with his mother, we learn of his life and his trials, abroad and in America. We learn of his identity issues, which he confesses, and we learn about the difficult problems he has faced.

After struggling to listen for hours, I felt that, indeed, the author’s voice and interpretation in the reading, was probably deliberate in order to reveal Little Dog’s sexual orientation. I felt a bit deceived, since nowhere in my initial reading about the book did I discover that it was about someone who had sexual identification issues. In this era of political correctness with the publishing industry’s strong predilection for progressive policies, there seem to be too many books being published to promote those policies. At the very least, a reader should be informed, in the immediate description of a novel, about the issues being promoted in the book, especially regarding sexual identity and even racism. I often feel, lately, that I am being kidnapped by the industry in order to force me to read something I have no desire to read, in order to promote the progressive political agenda and brainwash me. It is for that reason I have chosen to stop reading the book.

The prose is beautiful; it is lyrical, and it will attract a certain audience, I am just not in that audience. I have assigned it three stars, although I did not complete the book, because of the quality of the writing, and because I realize that although the content does not interest me, it will interest many others. For me, there are just too many other books out there that are written just as well about themes I would prefer to read.