Ocean Vuong

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Fiction is strongest when it launches a moral question. When it goes out and seeks to answer. To create an architecture in which the book can try to answer a moral question. The questions that we couldn’t ask in life because the costs would be too much. Fiction and, in a sense, narrative art, gives us a vicarious opportunity to see these questions play out at no true cost to our own. I treated my own life that way. And the lives of my family. I was very protective of them. I wouldn’t dare to ask them these questions, and so I’ll ask these questions to the holograms.– Ocean Vuong, episode 227 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

Poet and author Ocean Vuong joins us this week following the re-release of his debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. We discuss reckoning with one’s work from a distance (5:08), why he wrote an autobiographical novel (6:30), the cage of American masculinity (11:00), how he’s stayed the course, creatively, amidst oppressive systems (19:56), and what it means it means to be a first-generation writer (22:43). On the back-half, we wrestle with the grief of his mother’s passing and the tragic shootings in Atlanta (27:30), and the collective uncertainty of 2021 (42:38). Then, before we go, a tribute to his late mother and a song by Nina Simone (49:32).

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