Book Club Discussion Questions: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong


My local book club met last weekend, to discuss On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. A friend and I both scoured the internet, unable to find any discussion questions. Here’s what I came up with. They worked well for our discussion, so I’d love for your club to use them too!

Book Club Discussion Questions: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong


    1. What does the title mean? (this line is on p.238)


    1. What is the cover image? How does it connect to the novel?


    1. Why do you think we never learn the narrator/letter writer’s real name?


    1. Can you see the value in writing a letter to someone who can’t read? 


    1. What do you think was Little Dog’s reason for writing this letter?


    1. How does the book explore the idea of inherited family trauma?


    1. Discuss Little Dog’s relationship with Paul, compared to those with his mother and grandmother. 


    1. In Roxanne Gay’s review of this novel on Goodreads, she says, “He writes the body so well…He writes sex better than anyone out there.” What do you think of that assessment? What was your own reaction to the sex scenes? And how do those tie into the overall themes of the novel?


  1. Discuss some of your favorite lines from the novel, how did the author’s stunning imagery impact your reading experience?  

*My favorites: p. 24, when the bully tells Little Dog to speak English, “He was only nine but had already mastered the dialect of damaged American fathers.”

p.167 “The bus’ lights make it feel like a dentist’s office gliding through the wet streets.”

If your book club meets to discuss On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, I’d love to hear what your group thought. And if you come up with any additional questions, feel free to add them to this post as a comment.

Happy reading!



  1. Jackie

    May 8, 2020 at 5:20 am

    In June I will be leading our book club’s discussion of this book . I found OEWABG to be one of the most complicated & challenging books I have ever read and I am anxious to develop discussion questions that
    will be equal to the depth & quality of Vuong’s writing. Thanks for your posting. The questions you present
    are very insightful & will be a huge help to me. During this time of “social distancing” our meetings are over
    Zoom. This is not ideal & hinders spontaneous discussion but we have been together for many years & will
    do our best to remain together. Lively discussion guided by well crafted questions such as yours will help us
    overcome the barriers.

  2. Ramona Mead

    May 8, 2020 at 11:42 am

    Thanks for your comments Jackie, I hope my questions are helpful. My club has been meeting over Zoom as well and we have all found it is not much different from in person – our vibe is still the same and I don’t find it hinders discussion at all. Good luck!

  3. Gladwyn d'Souza

    May 26, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    Thanks I posted a link to your questions for use on my book club.

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