Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!
For this session our text was an excerpt from On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, posted below.
Our prompt for this session was: “Write about giving a name.”
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Ocean Vuong, On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous (p. 20)
Before I was Little Dog, I had another name—the name I was born with. One October afternoon in a banana-thatched hut outside Saigon, on the same rice paddy you grew up on, I became your son. As Lan told it, a local shaman and his two helpers rushed in, wrapped me, still sticky with birth, in a white cloth, and raced to the nearby river, where I was bathed under veils of smoke and sage.
Screaming, ash smudged across my forehead, I was placed in my father’s arms and the shaman whispered the name he had given me. It means Patriotic Leader of the Nation, the shaman explained. Having been hired by my father, and noticing my old man’s gruffness, the way he puffed out his chest to widen his 5ft.-2in frame as he walked, speaking with gestures that resembled blows, the shaman picked a name, I imagine, that would satisfy the man who paid him. And he was right. My father beamed, Lan said, lifting me over his head at the hut’s threshold. “My son will be the leader of Vietnam,” he shouted. But 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, the soil where, a few feet, away, your blood had made a dark circle between your legs, turning the dirt there into fresh mud—and I was alive.
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