UMass Amherst Associate Professor’s Novel to be Made into Movie

Academy Award winning independent film and TV company, A24, announces a theatrical version of Ocean Vuong’s “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”
Ocean Vuong
Ocean Vuong

AMHERST, Mass. – Plans were recently announced for a film adaptation of “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” the best-selling debut novel by Ocean Vuong, associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The novel will be adapted by A24, the company behind films like Uncut Gems, Midsommar, Lady Bird and Moonlight­.

The news was announced during an episode of “The A24 Podcast," which featured Vuong as a guest in conversation with the writer Bryan Washington, whose novel “Memorial” is also being adapted by A24 into a limited TV series.

Vuong, who teaches in the English department’s MFA program for poets and writers, has received wide praise for the novel, which was included in The Washington Post, Variety and GQ magazine's “Best Books of 2019” lists. Time and The Guardian featured the book as one of the top fiction choices of last year. Among its accolades are the American Book Award, the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award, the New England Book Award, the Massachusetts Book Award, the Connecticut Book Award, Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction and Digital Book World’s Best Book. It was long-listed for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction.

“We are enduringly proud of Ocean’s accomplishments and consistently inspired by the force of his writing and storytelling,” says Barbara Krauthamer, dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. “The stunning and visceral language woven throughout “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” will no doubt translate to a beautiful visual format.”

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”—which has been described as “an immigrant novel and a work of autofiction” by The New Yorker and as “a painful but extraordinary coming-of-age story about surviving the aftermath of trauma” by NPR—is staged as a letter to the narrator’s mother, who cannot read. Through a fractured narrative, the novel explores the childhood, adolescence and self-discovery of a boy called “Little Dog” who emigrated from Vietnam to Hartford, Connecticut with his mother and grandmother.

He received a 2019 “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation, which recognized Vuong for “marrying folkloric traditions with linguistic experimentation in works that explore the effects of intergenerational trauma, the refugee experience, and the complexities of identity and desire with eloquence and clarity.”

In 2018, Vuong received the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry for his debut poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds. Additionally, the book also won the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.