While Little Dog’s mother is painting a customer’s nails, the customer tells her, “I lost my baby, my little girl, Julie. I can’t believe it, she was my strongest, my oldest.” Little Dog’s mother is visibly moved, but ironically, the customer later tells her that it was her horse that died. Hearing this, Little Dog’s mother starts to curse in Vietnamese because she does not think that a dead horse deserves so much compassion.
Little Dog's Name
Little Dog’s grandmother calls him “Little Dog” because “often the smallest or weakest of the flock, as I was, is named after the most despicable things.” Ironically, the name indicates that she loves him very much because she wants to protect him from evil spirits which are believed to roam the land for healthy and beautiful children and spare the ones that are called ghastly things. He sums it up thus: “To love something, then, is to name it after something so worthless it might be left untouched—and alive.”
Little Dog's Real Name
When Little Dog was born, the local shaman gave him the name meaning “Patriotic Leader of the Nation,” which filled his father with pride, bragging that his son would become the leader of Vietnam. Ironically, the opposite happened because Little Dog states that “in two years, Vietnam—which, thirteen years after the war and still in shambles—would grow so dire that we would flee the very ground he stood on.”
Little Dog's English Skills
Shortly after having emigrated to the U.S., Little Dog and his mother visit a department store where the sales clerk asks if the boy is adopted because his skin color is so much different from his mother’s. Since his mother cannot communicate in English, he tries to impress the clerk with the new English words he has learned. Indeed, he is proud that he was able to use “exactly eighty percent of the language” he knew at that time. Ironically, he achieves the opposite because he says, “That’s my mom. I came out her asshole and I love her very much. I am seven. Next year I will be eight. I’m doing fine. I feel good how about you? Merry Christmas Happy New Year.”
The Word "Sorry"
In the nail salon, the workers frequently use the word “sorry” when they move around the customers. However, they do not mean it as a way to apologize because they have done nothing that would warrant an apology; they merely use it to indicate that they are around.
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.