We the Animals

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We the Animals
AuthorJustin Torres
CountryUnited States
PublisherHoughton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date
Sept. 2, 2011
Media typePrint (hardback)

We the Animals (2011) is the debut novel by the American author Justin Torres. It is a bildungsroman about three wild brothers of white and Puerto Rican parentage who live a rough and tumble childhood in rural upstate New York during the 1980s. The youngest brother, who is the protagonist, eventually breaks away from the rest of the family.[1]

The novel is semi-autobiographical and is loosely based on Torres's own life growing up in up-state New York.[2]


The young, unnamed narrator, a boy, grows up in a tight-knit family with two older brothers, Manny and Joel. His parents, who were teenagers when the boys were conceived and they married, have an abusive unhappy marriage but still feel love for each other.

In a series of vignettes, the narrator describes how his parents struggle to keep the family afloat and how his father, and eventually his brothers, are abusive towards his mother who is deeply unhappy and longs for a better life.

As the narrator grows up, he senses a difference between himself and his brothers, which is partially caused by his love of literature and partially caused by the fact that he is gay. After his parents discover his journal, which is filled with erotic imaginings and fantasies, the narrator lashes out, violently attacking his parents and sibling, after which he is interred at a psychiatric ward.


We the Animals received generally positive reviews, including warm notices from The New York Times and Kirkus Reviews[3][4] and praise from such novelists and writers as Michael Cunningham, Dorothy Allison and Paul Harding.[5] It was nominated for a Publishing Triangle Award, an NAACP Image Award, and it won an Indies Choice Book Award.

Film adaptation[edit]

A film adaptation of We the Animals, directed by Jeremiah Zagar, premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.[6]


  1. ^ "We the Animals". Amazon.com. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  2. ^ Ortiz, Sara. "INTERVIEW: Justin Torres, author of "We the Animals"". Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  3. ^ "We the Animals". Kirkus Reviews. 20 July 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  4. ^ Isherwood, Charles (1 September 2011). "Grasping the Secrets of Being an Adult". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  5. ^ "We the Animals". Powell's Books. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  6. ^ Rooney, David (January 20, 2018). "'We the Animals': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 28, 2018.