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Cover for We The Animals

We The Animals

Justin Torres


List Price: 17.99*
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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (8/31/2011)
MP3 CD (9/1/2011)
Compact Disc (9/1/2011)
Compact Disc (9/1/2011)


A NATIONAL BESTSELLER and an award-winning novel in stories surrounding a young, half-white, half-Puerto Rican boy grappling with life, love, and identity as he comes of age.
In this groundbreaking debut, Justin Torres plunges us into the chaotic heart of one family, the intense bonds of three brothers, and the mythic effects of this fierce love on the people we must become.
"A tremendously gifted writer whose highly personal voice should excite us in much the same way that Raymond Carver’s or Jeffrey Eugenides’s voice did when we first heard it."—The Washington Post

"We the Animals is a dark jewel of a book. It’s heartbreaking. It’s beautiful. It resembles no other book I’ve read.”—Michael Cunningham
"A miracle in concentrated pages, you are going to read it again and again."—Dorothy Allison
"Rumbles with lyric dynamite . . . Torres is a savage new talent."—Benjamin Percy, Esquire
"A fiery ode to boyhood . . . A welterweight champ of a book."—NPR, Weekend Edition
"A novel so honest, poetic, and tough that it makes you reexamine what it means to love and to hurt."—O, The Oprah Magazine
"The communal howl of three young brothers sustains this sprint of a novel . . . A kind of incantation."—The New Yorker

Praise For We The Animals

"We the Animals is a dark jewel of a book. It’s heartbreaking. It’s beautiful. It resembles no other book I’ve read. We should all be grateful for Justin Torres, a brilliant, ferocious new voice."
—Michael Cunningham "Some books quicken your pulse. Some slow it. Some burn you inside and send you tearing off to find the author to see who made this thing that can so burn you and quicken you and slow you all at the same time. A miracle in concentrated pages, you are going to read it again and again, and know exactly what I mean."
—Dorothy Allison "In language brilliant, poised and pure, We the Animals tells about family love as it is felt when it is frustrated or betrayed or made to stand in the place of too many other needed things, about how precious it becomes in these extremes, about the terrible sense of loss when it fails under duress, and the joy and dread of realizing that there really is no end to it."
—Marilynne Robinson "We the Animals snatches the reader by the scruff of the heart, tight as teeth, and shakes back and forth—between the human and the animal, the housed and the feral, love and violence, mercy and wrath—and leaves him in the wilderness, ravished by its beauty. It is an indelible and essential work of art."
—Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Tinkers "We the Animals marks the debut of an astonishing new voice in American Literature. In an intense coming-of-age story that brings to mind the early work of Jeffrey Eugenides and Sandra Cisneros, Torres's concentrated prose goes down hot like strong liquor. His beautifully flawed characters worked their way into my heart on the very first page and have been there ever since."
—Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow "We the Animals is a gorgeous, deeply humane book. Every page sings, and every scene startles. I think we'll all be reading Justin Torres for years to come."
—Daniel Alarcon, author of Lost City Radio and War by Candlelight "A strobe light of a story...I wanted more of Torres's haunting word-torn world..."
New York Times Book Review "Justin Torres' debut novel is a welterweight champ of a book. It's short but it's also taut, elegant, lean — and it delivers a knockout."
—NPR's Weekend Edition "A slender but affecting debut novel by Justin Torres...[a] sensitive, carefully wrought autobiographical first novel...The scenes have the jumbled feel of homemade movies spliced together a little haphazardly, echoing the way memory works: moments of fear or excitement sting with bright clarity years later, while the long passages in between dissolve into nothingness. From the patchwork emerges a narrative of emotional maturing and sexual awakening that is in many ways familiar...but is freshened by the ethnicity of the characters and their background, and the blunt economy of Mr. Torres’s writing, lit up by sudden flashes of pained insight."
New York Times "The communal howl of three young brothers sustains this sprint of a novel, which clocks in at a hundred and twenty-five pages. The boys, who imagine themselves the Musketeers, the Stooges, and the Holy Trinity all at once, are the wisecracking, lamenting chorus who bear witness to their parents’ wild-ride marriage. Ma got pregnant at fourteen—she tells her oldest son she could feel him growing inside her, ‘heart ticking like a bomb'—and now sleeps for days at a time and weeps whenever she tells her children she loves them; Paps, occasionally AWOL, surfaces to deliver meticulous, leisurely spankings. The collage of vignettes is elevated by Torres's twitchy prose, in which the pummel of hard consonants and slant rhymes becomes a kind of incantation: ‘They hunched and they skulked. They jittered. They scratched...T —

Mariner Books, 9780547844190, 144pp.

Publication Date: September 11, 2012

About the Author

JUSTIN TORRES's first novel We the Animals, a national bestseller, has been translated into fifteen languages and is now a feature film.  He has published short fiction in The New Yorker, Harper's, Granta, Tin House, The Washington Post, Glimmer Train, Flaunt, and other publications, as well as non-fiction pieces in publications like The Guardian and The Advocate. He lives in Los Angeles, where he is an Assistant Professor of English at UCLA.

Conversation Starters from

1. How does the opening chapter, “We Wanted More,” serve to introduce the rest of the novel? What do you learn about the narrator and his brothers?

2. Now look at the brothers individually—who is Manny, Joel, the youngest brother? What sets them apart? At what point do you begin to see them separate? What separates them? Why doesn’t the youngest have a name?

3. Look at the three brothers as whole—the “we” of the title. What characterizes them as a whole? How do they operate as one unit? Why is it important that there are three?

4. What exactly is the animalistic nature of boys in general, and of these boys in particular? What are the different ways throughout the book that Torres compares the boys to animals? Are the other characters in the book—their mother and father—likened to animals, too? In what ways? Are we all animals?

5. Look at all the different names for the boys—from the ones they give themselves, “Muskateers,” “monsters,” “the magic of God” (p. 24-25), to the ones others give them, “invaders, marauders, scavengers . . . hideaways, fugitives, punks, cityslickers, bastards . . . sweets, babies, innocents . . . Animals” (p. 35, 37)—and discuss the truth of these definitions, what words mean to these boys, how they come to discover who they are.

6. Look at the chapter “Never-Never Time.” Do you see a connection to Never-Never Land in Peter Pan? Compare the brothers in We the Animals to the Lost Boys in Peter Pan.  What other elements and characters of the Peter Pan story are here?

7. “That’s how it sometimes was with Ma; I needed to press myself against something cold and hard, or I’d get dizzy” (p. 13). Discuss the mother’s role in the story. What effect does she have on the men in her life? How does she operate as the lone female? What is her power? How and when does she choose to use or not use it?

8. “Never-Never Time” and “The Lake” both end with the celebration of life. Are the lives in We the Animals joyful? Precarious? What makes life precious to them? In what ways are the characters living in extremes and what are those extremes?

9. Hunger is a theme throughout the novel. What are the different characters hungry for?

10. In what ways does violence appear and do work in the novel? How is violence related to the human and the animal? How is it tied to love? And does sex enter into these relationships as well? How are sex and violence intertwined?

11. How do the members of this family love each other? What is at stake in their loving and how do they show their affection and connection?

12. What separates the family from the rest of the community they live in? What prejudices do they experience?

13. “I used to believe we could escape,” (p. 84) Manny says in “Trash Kites.” Paps had resigned himself to the same in “Night Watch” (p. 60), saying: “We’re never gonna escape this.” What do they want to escape, exactly? And who else wants to escape? Why? And which, if any of them, can actually do it? What other books can you think of that deal with this kind of struggle?

14. How does We the Animals both resemble and defy the classic coming-of-age novel?

15. Were you surprised by the ending? What do you think is happening in the last chapter? What does it mean that the other animals “crown me prince of their rank jungles” (p. 125)?