Early in his career, actor Courtney B. Vance lost his father to suicide. Recently, he lost his godson to the same fate. Still, as mental health discourse hits the mainstream, it leaves the most vulnerable out of the conversation: Black men.
In America, we teach that strength means holding back tears and shaming your own feelings. In the Black community, these pressures are especially poignant. Poor mental health outcomes– including diagnoses of depression and anxiety, reliance on prescription drugs, and suicide– have skyrocketed in the past decade. Institutionalized racism, microagressions, and stress caused by socioeconomic factors have led Black individuals to face worse mental health outcomes than any other demographic.
In this book, Courtney B. Vance seeks to change this trajectory. Along with professional expertise from famed psychologist Dr. Robin L. Smith (popularly known as “Dr. Robin”), Courtney B. Vance explores issues of grief, relationships, identity, and race through the telling of his own most formative experiences. Together, Courtney and Dr. Robin provide a guide for Black men navigating life’s ups and downs, reclaiming mental well-being, and examining broken pieces to find whole, full-hearted living. Self-care is an act of revolution. It’s time to revolutionize mental health in the Black community.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.
With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.