Justin Torres, author of We the Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), may be only 31, but he's held a lot of different jobs. Currently he's a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and he just left a part-time gig at the collectively owned and operated Modern Times Bookstore in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood. He continues, "I worked as a farmhand on an organic farm in Virginia; I was a shot-boy at a gay bar in Texas—I walked around in my underwear, with a tray of brightly colored shots, in test-tubes; I drove a truck that collected clothing donations around Massachusetts; I walked rich men's dogs in the West Village. The first time I lived in San Francisco, years ago, I worked at a drop-off laundry, washing and folding other people's clothes. I hated it, and I've never folded my own clothes since, though I do wash them."
We the Animals (with a 50,000-copy first printing) focuses on three inseparable brothers and their white mother and Puerto Rican father. Torres says he "nurtured an ugly feeling" about his own childhood, so he invented a fictional family to observe its members' responses to difficult situations and try to see the good in their actions.
Senior editor Jenna Johnson acquired the manuscript from agent Jin Auh at the Wiley Agency. She says, "We the Animals is a very short book and were it a few pages longer it might not be as perfect; Justin has a sense of rhythm and percussion in his sentences, a real thrumming throughout the pages."