When Little Dog thinks he has seen the face of a relative who recently passed away, he gets a panic attack and calls his mother. His mother sings “Happy Birthday” to comfort him because that is the only song she knows in English. The episode ends with a powerful image, which illustrates that this simple song provided great comfort: “And I listened, the phone pressed so hard to my ear that, hours later, a pink rectangle was still imprinted on my cheek.”
When the neighbors shoot some fireworks into the sky, Little Dog describes the scene like an episode of war, with “huge explosions that reverberated through our apartment.” The loud noise triggers a panic attack in his grandmother, who “was on her knees, scratching wildly at the blankets” with “cold and wet” hands.
A Song about Corpses
At a birthday party, Lan suddenly starts singing a Vietnamese song about a woman wandering among corpses and looking for her sister. Even though Little Dog and his mother try to make Lan stop, she continues the song, bringing a part of the Vietnam War into the room. Little Dog creates a vivid image by employing the metaphor of “the glasses clinking as the corpses, fleshed from Lan’s mouth, piled up around us.”
After Little Dog confesses to his mother that he is gay, she tells him that she aborted a child before she had him. She compares the procedure with removing the seeds from a papaya, which creates a graphic image in Little Dog’s (and therefore the reader’s) mind: “It was that image, its practical mundanity, the preparation of fruit I have seen you do a thousand times, the spoon gliding along the papaya’s flesh-orange core, a slush of black seeds plopping into the steel sink, that made it unbearable.”
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.