Thursday, February 27, 7:30
Among the most important currents in our lives are the families that shape us. Justin Torres writes beautifully and achingly about the forces that bring families together or sweep them apart in our Common Reader, We the Animals. This debut novel enchanted national reviewers, who were moved by the authenticity of the relationships he describes. "Elegant" seems to be a favorite word among reviewers for describing the writing in We the Animals. In his review in The Washington Post Jeff Turrentine calls We the Animals "the celebratory shot of a starting gun" and urges, "Justin Torres is a tremendously gifted writer whose highly personal voice should excite us in much the same way that Raymond Carver's or Jeffrey Eugenides's did when we first heard it."
A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Torres has published short stories in The New Yorker, Harper's, Granta, Tin House, and Glimmer Train. He is a recent Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and a recipient of a Rolón Fellowship in Literature from United States Artists and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. He was also named one of Salon's "Sexiest Men of 2011."
Excerpt from We the Animals
"Monks," Ma had said. "They study God."
"Monks," Manny whispered now, and we understood. Joel draped himself in the sheet that had been kicked to the floor, and I grabbed the other curtain, and like monks we waited, except it was Ma we were studying, her black tangled hair, her shut eyes, and her bloated jaw. We watched the tiny form of her under the covers, a twitch or kick, and the steady rise and fall of her chest.
When she finally woke, she called us beautiful.
"My beautiful baby boys," she said, the first words out of her busted mouth in three days, and it was too much; we turned from her. I pressed my hand against the glass, suddenly embarrassed, needing the cold. That's how it sometimes was with Ma; I needed to press myself against something cold and hard, or I'd get dizzy.