This profile was penned by Angela Pneuman, who will introduce Justin at the conference’s opening reading July 27, and who will appear on our “First Books” panel for conference participants. Her first novel, Lay It on My Heart, was released July 1.
Justin Torres’ bestselling novel, We the Animals, is a raw, devastating, luminous glimpse into boyhood, family and coming-of-age. Three brothers, the sons of hard-working, worn-out parents, carom their way through a loving but gritty childhood in upstate New York. The book evokes the warmth of the boys’ connectedness and then its hollow loss as our narrator grows into an identity all his own. With edgy lyricism and an unflinching, unsettling narrative structure, Torres strikes deep into the ambivalent heart of family love.
Torres earned his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and soon became a Wallace Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford. He has since received numerous honors, including a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Rolón Fellowship in Literature from United States Artists, a VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and a fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. In 2012, he was honored as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35.
In addition to We the Animals, Torres has written compellingly—and compassionately—about the real events in his life, including time spent in a mental hospital as a teenager after his parents found out he was gay. He is an accomplished short story and essay writer, as well, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker , Harper’s, Granta, Tin House, Advocate, OUT and The Guardian among many others.
Today Justin teaches at Columbia University, Lesley University’s Low Residency MFA Program, and The Writers’ Foundry MFA Program at St. Joseph’s College. He is working on his next book.
In addition to appearing at the reading July 27, Justin will give a lecture titled “Close to the Bone: Creating Fiction from Personal Experience” on July 31. View the Public Readings & Lectures page for details — see you soon!