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By Destineé Coburn

In the spirit of Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re exploring the life and works of the powerhouse-poet, Ocean Vuong.

photographic portrait of ocean vuong, a young man in blue shirt and gray pants

Ocean Vuong migrated to Hartford, Connecticut from Vietnam at the age of 2. Vuong completed his education and completed high school while searching for a sense of purpose. Despite challenging circumstances, Vuong expressed a need to find his voice. 

He decided that he had to leave Connecticut and move to New York. There, Vuong attended Brooklyn College and New York University, where he earned his MFA in poetry.

In his poems and books such as On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong makes references to his upbringing and sexuality while finding juxtapositions between Vietnamese and American culture. By doing so, we follow Vuong’s journey to self acceptance and forgiveness. 

Vuong’s work quickly gained traction. By 2019, Vuong had been published by Narrative Magazine, Boston Review, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. He has shared his work and stories with Amanpour and Company, the Library of Congress, VICE News, and  Late Night with Seth Meyers. Now, Vuong is a professor in the MFA program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

“You could be a victim of war, you could be a victim of domestic violence, child abuse, but whether you live in victimhood or not is up to you.”

~Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong’s books, Night Sky with Exit Wounds and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous are available for download on If you’d like to learn about more Asian American poets, the documentary, Between the Lines - Asian American Women’s Poetry is worth a watch on Kanopy! Both platforms can be accessed using you D.C. Public Library card

Audiences: Teens
Topic: Teen Talk