Time is a Mother | Book Review 📚⌛📚

Hey everyone, my name is Leslie. Welcome to my channel, Books Gurrs and Purrs. Today I’m going  
to be reviewing the book, Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong. I absolutely love Ocean Vuong’s work.  
He’s put out a poetry collection before. Night 
Sky with Exit Wounds, which I absolutely loved  
and then he put out his debut novel, a 
work of fiction, that is On Earth We’re  
Briefly Gorgeous. I love that work as well. I also love this, but if we’re going to put it on a scale  
of comparing his work, because he’s such an 
incredible writer it’s kind of hard not to.  
He’s kind of created a this beautiful existence of poetry and fictional narrative all of his own  
with the way that he uses prose and verse I’d have to say that On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is one  
of my favorite books, but of his work that’s like number one and then his poetry collections would  
be second. This I liked a bit less than Night Sky With Exit Wounds, but it’s still a great read. So  
in this book he’s exploring the loss of his mother and as well as other topics that he’s explored,  
which is him being gay, him being Vietnamese. I feel very much at times he’s discussing how  
he’s viewed or the narratives that he

comes up against from others in America, being an American,  
Vietnamese American. Some of the subjects that he comes up against, and so one of them that  
I wanted to discuss. I’m going to read what he wrote, because it’s best said in his own words  
Okay so Ocean Vuong writes, “Once at a 
party set on a rooftop in Brooklyn for  
an artsy vibe. A young woman said sipping her drink, you’re so lucky you’re gay plus you get  
to write about war and stuff I’m just white 
pause I got nothing. Laughter glasses clink.”  
So what he’s exploring there is this myth of 
what someone who is a part of a minority group  
or someone that’s been through hardship should be able to accomplish. It kind of reminds me of  
Alicia Elliott’s work, A Mind Spread on the Ground, because in that book she writes that she was…  
Actually before I say that if you’re not familiar with that work, it’s a work of non-fiction, it’s a  
memoir and Alicia just explores mental illness, being a person of the indigenous community,  
and she came up against something similarly when she was in a writing program a white  
person turned to her and just said, like oh 
well because you’re indigenous you’re gonna  
easily get into another writing program, which is just not the case. I don’t really know where that  
minority myth comes from, if I could call it that, but it’s this idea that if someone’s been through  
great suffering, they’re somehow at an advantage, which is just absolutely ridiculous. So I felt  
like that’s in a similar vein with what’s being 
discussed in Ocean Vuong’s poetry here is that  
there’s someone that looks at the tragedies 
of his family being torn apart from their  
land in Vietnam due to the war, that took place there and then placed over here in America to  
have to start over, if that’s even possible, 
and I don’t know. I think it’s, I don’t even  
know what to say about someone looking at someone else and saying well, because you’ve been through  
all these struggles are being put in a 
position, because you’re gay where there’s  
struggles in society now you could just like, 
rub your fingers together and make art easier.  
It’s just so ridiculous, but that stood out to me and kind of rubbed me the wrong way, but I think  
that’s what’s really great about Ocean Vuong’s work is that he could take moments and kind of put  
a mirror up to like, the shittiness of humanity. 
I’ll just say that. That’s just, I’m not as poetic  
as him to say any better. There’s one other moment that I really loved in his work. So I’ll just read  
it and then talk about it and that is on page 
five. There’s a poem called, Snow Theory. Okay  
and Ocean Vuong writes “One by one the house is turned off their lights. I lay down over  
her outline to keep her true. Together we made an angel. It looked like something being destroyed in  
a blizzard. I haven’t killed a thing since.” 
So throughout the novel. Throughout the novel? 
So throughout Ocean Vuong’s work of poetry, he uses snow, I think as a symbolism of death,  
which I’ve only seen used in films and I 
think it’s also discussed in literature that  
way. So that really stuck out to me, but what 
I really loved about this moment is I felt like  
when he’s creating a snow angel, I feel in a 
way that’s his attempt to preserve his mother.  
At least that’s how I took it, but if if I’m 
wrong please correct me. I felt like he’s just  
trying to hold on to her existence through this action and I thought that was really beautiful,  
really loving and also he describes it in 
a violent way, right? Murdering something  
and it’s just something to think about. I 
don’t want to say too much more about his work  
other than to say that he’s really great. I 
don’t know how he does it. I’m just gonna have  
to study his work more. He has a way of jumping through time from moment to moment and I saw that  
really exhibited in, On Earth We’re Briefly 
Gorgeous, but he does it again so well in his  
poetry collection here and I really appreciate 
that. My only critique, and I don’t even know  
if I should call it critique, but I’ll just say 
that because also I’m not an expert at poetry.  
I’m loving reading certain poetry collections, 
but it’s still not my go-to genre. If you will  
at times, I think there are like two separate 
poems in here where Ocean Vuong switches from  
a poetic narrative to more of a prose narrative and I’m just not sure what he’s doing there. I  
don’t know if that’s considered experimental or maybe I just don’t understand. So if anyone has  
anything to say about those two, more prose 
prone, I don’t know what you want to say,  
poetry pieces, I’d like to hear what you have to say about it. I just didn’t, I wasn’t sure how it  
fit in to what’s going on, but again I think I’m 
just going to have to reread this particular work  
to kind of get a better grasp on it. So yeah, 
I did like it. I didn’t love it as much as I  
did On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and Night Sky With Exit Wounds, but it’s still a great read and  
I’m definitely going to feel that way throughout his entire career, because everything he writes  
is absolutely beautiful. So pick up a copy. 
All right everyone, that’s it for that read.  
Like, subscribe, write a comment. Let me know what you think about this work and that prose  
narrative. I’d really like to know what you 
think. All right everyone, I’ll see you later.

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