Time is a Mother Book Review



Catherine Yan ’24

Ocean Vuong’s Time is a Mother is a breathtakingly beautiful collection of poems that explore the complexities of identity, memory, and love. Vuong’s writing is raw, honest, and deeply personal, drawing the reader into his world with each word.

The poems in this collection are divided into three sections, each of which delves into a different aspect of Vuong’s life and experiences. The first section focuses on the poet’s relationship with his mother, exploring their bond and the impact of their separation. The poems in this section are both heart-wrenching and uplifting, capturing the depth of their connection despite the distance between them.

The second section of the book takes on a more introspective tone, exploring Vuong’s struggles with identity and belonging. The poems in this section are powerful, delving into the complexities of growing up as a Vietnamese-American and the effects of trauma on the self. Vuong’s writing is both vulnerable and brave, offering a glimpse into the experiences of a generation of immigrants and the struggles they face.

The final section of the book is a love letter to the world, exploring the beauty and mystery of the natural world and the connections between all living things. These poems are rich with imagery and sensory detail, offering a sense of peace and wonder in the face of the challenges of life.

What stood out to me was how Vuong explores his experiences as a Vietnamese-American immigrant. Growing up as an immigrant can be a challenging experience, and I appreciated the honesty and vulnerability with which Vuong approached these themes in his poems. His writing gave me a deeper understanding of his experience and helped me to appreciate how our experiences shape who we are and how we see the world.

I was also struck by how Vuong explores the relationship between time and memory. In Chinese culture, the concept of time is often viewed as cyclical rather than linear, and the importance of preserving and honoring the past is highly valued. In this collection, Vuong brings memory to life in a powerful and deeply personal way, exploring how our memories shape our lives and our experiences and how unresolved trauma oftentimes crops up repeatedly in our lives.

Vuong’s writing is powerful, moving, and unapologetically honest, offering a glimpse into his soul. If you are a poetry fan, or simply looking for a book that will bring you to tears, Time is a Mother is a must-read.