We have LGBTQ representation standing front and center for this year’s MacArthur Fellowship or “Genius” grants. Specifically, out poet and former refugee Ocean Vuong is a recipient of one of this year’s grants.
But who is Vuong? He’s a 30-year-old poet and assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Vuong was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam but his family moved to Connecticut in 1990 after being displaced.
Vuong’s family was forced to leave the country because of their mixed-race ancestry, according to the Guardian. Vuong’s grandfather was a U.S. soldier who fought in the Vietnam War and fell in love with Vuong’s grandmother. After being forced out of Vietnam, the family spent a year in a refugee camp in the Philippines. They then traveled to the United States of America.
“Because of the precarious nature of my own history I don’t like to be confined to any genre, given any label,” Vuong said of his upbringing as it relates to his writing. “Ultimately, we’re all just writing sentences and telling stories.”
Vuong’s poetry has then been affected by Vuong’s turbulent upbringing as well as the circumstance of his life today. According to Queerty, he thus released a poetry book titled Night Sky With Exit Wounds in 2016. He then released a debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, in 2019. His writing has been received well by the literary world, as he has received many prizes before the MacArthur such as the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Pushcart Prize, and the Whiting Award for Poetry.
Congratulations to Ocean Vuong.