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  • Writer's pictureHarleen Kaur

Queer, Dyslexic, Legend: Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong is an award winning poet and writer who will be leaving a legacy in the poetry and writing community.

Vuong was born on a rice farm in Ho Chi Minh City on October 14, 1988. His mother had to flee Vietnam once the communist forces took control. Vuong’s grandfather was a white American soldier who met and married his grandma during the Vietnam war. Since Vuong’s mother was of mixed race, she had to flee to a Philippines refugee camp in order to escape the communist forces.

At the age of two, Vuong’s mother and other relatives had migrated to the U.S. settling in Hartford, Connecticut. From there, Vuong began his academic career where at the age of eleven, he became the first in his family who learned how to read.

Vuong went through different obstacles in his academic career as he suspected dyslexia might run in his family. He had a 1.7 GPA throughout high school and took some time at community college before he went to Pace University. After realizing that studying marketing was not for him, he left and enrolled at Brooklyn College where he received a B.A. in English studying 19th century literature and poetry.

Source: Instagram @ocean_vuong

Vuong is an inspiration to many. He did not follow the traditional path while struggling with a disability and continued to dabble in different kinds of education. These difficulties did not discourage him entirely from pursuing education, and he continued to try until he found the subject he enjoyed. It truly shows how if your heart's not into something, then you are not going to do your best.

Vuong received his MFA in Poetry at NYU and teaches as an associate professor for a MFA program for poets and Writers at University of Massachusetts.

Moving on his professional career, Vuong has released two chapbooks titled “Over the Rainbow” and “No.” Vuong is openly gay, and in 2011 the ALA (American Library Association) included his first chapbook on its list of LGBTQ+ reads. It was deemed as a notable book on non-heterosexuality.

In 2019, Vuong became a New York Times Bestseller with the release of his novel On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. This book is essentially a long letter meant for his mother who can not read, and young Vietnamese Americans. The book is about the character dealing with the traumas that his grandma and mother experienced during the war as well as fitting into a country that does not see him as one of them.

Vuong’s legacy will be continued into the far future as he was revealed to be one of the writers who are a part of the Future Library Project, a project that is compiling original pieces of writing from the year 2014 to 2114. Each year, a writer’s unreleased work will be selected and compiled into a project that will contain 100 pieces. In the year 2114, those 100 pieces will be read for the first time. Vuong’s work being selected has immortalized his work and himself. In 100 years, most of us and Vuong will not be here, but the future and Vuong’s legacy will be.

You can find more of Vuong’s work in the Poetry, The Nation Boston Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times.

Source: New York Times

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Harleen Kaur

Chopsticks Alley Editorial Intern

Harleen is a freshman at Foothill College pursuing her B.A. in philosophy. She ran her high school’s newspaper PHHS The Legend as a managing editor, and was later inducted into the Quill and Scroll Honor Society as a lifetime member. Growing up in San Jose, Harleen hopes to write about and amplify the voices of the Vietnamese and Pinoy community that she is surrounded by. She hopes to become a lawyer who will give back to her community.

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