Various texts in this class have brought me back to the poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong. Many of the poems in this work grapple with Vuong’s identity as a gay Vietnamese American author who was the first in his family to learn how to read and write. Vuong was one of my first introductions to poetry and LGBTQ literature, and his poetry has stuck with me ever since.
Like many readings from this class, the collection highlights the disconnect that often occurs between people who identify as LGBTQ and their respective (though disrespectful) families. In Angels in America, Joe struggles with his sexual identity and its lack of acceptance in his family and upbringing. Night Sky continues this theme with the added isolation of being a first generation immigrant from Vietnam, having neither family nor community to turn to in moments of existential crisis. The poem “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong” details Ocean’s specific struggle with his parents, communicated in lines such as “Your father is only your father / until one of you forgets.” Familial tension is a central feature to the queer experience, and it need not be between a queer child and their parents. Bechdel’s Fun Home illustrates this tension on the part of the father and his inability to reconcile his identity with the life built around him. Vuong’s attempts to grapple with these familial constraints on his identity shine brightly in Night Sky and would fit well amongst the background of other class readings.