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#RedefineAtoZ: Ocean Vuong, the Writer Inspired By the 'Wild Beauties and Dangers' of the World

Ocean Vuong is an award-winning poet and essayist whose work is on the "cutting edge" of the Asian-American experience.
Ocean Vuong
Ocean Vuong is an award-winning poet and essayist whose work has been featured in publications such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic.Paulo Chun / NBC News

NAME: Ocean Vuong

AGE: 28

HOMETOWN: New York City

INSTAGRAM: @oceanvuong

NBC Asian America asked celebrities and industry leaders to nominate individuals for our inaugural list, and Ocean Vuong was nominated by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen: "Charismatic reader of his work. [He is] at the cutting edge of Asian American and American literature dealing with refugees, trauma, history, sex, violence, and war."

How do you introduce yourself?

I’m a writer, thinker, teacher, son, brother, friend and, despite all this, a lover of solitude.

What inspires you?

The world, its contradictions, conflicts, joys, and wild beauties and dangers.

What challenges you?

White supremacy.

Tell us about the biggest risk you ever took.

I quit a lucrative scholarship to attend business school to roam the streets of New York City with artists and writers.

SEE THE LIST: NBC Asian America Presents: A to Z - The 26 Emerging Voices of 2017

What are you reading/watching/listening to these days?

I’ve been reading mostly women writers: "Dictee" by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, "The Book of Salt" by Monique Truong, "Mad Honey Symposium" by Sally Wen Mao, "Sons and Other Flammable Objects" by Porochista Khakpour, "Engine Empire" by Cathy Park Hong, "Abundance" (selected essays) by Annie Dillard, "The Waves" by Virginia Woolf,

Music: Frank Ocean, for courage and brevity; Perfume Genius, for tenderness and onwardness; Etta James for joy and mercy; King Krule for recognition; Mitski for hope; Alabama Shakes for strength.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what job would you want to have?

I don’t know. I don’t like to think of what if because the present, this life, this work, is all I have.

What’s your motto?

Kindness and compassion are not a sacrifice — but a nourishment for art.

I celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month because...

...Asian Americans are beautiful, strong, brave, creative, eloquent, possible, and necessary.

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