Winner, National Book Awards 2023 for Fiction

ISBN 9780374293574
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers
author photo of Justin Torres. (Photo credit: JJ Geiger)
Justin Torres

Justin Torres is the author of We the Animals, which won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, was translated into 15 languages, and was adapted into a feature film. He was a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree, a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University, and a Cullman Center Fellow at the New York Public Library. More about this author >

Award Years

Award Status

Award Categories

From the publisher:

Out in the desert in a place called the Palace, a young man tends to a dying soul, someone he once knew briefly, but who has haunted the edges of his life. Juan Gay—playful raconteur, child lost and found and lost, guardian of the institutionalized—has a project to pass along to this new narrator. It is inspired by a true artifact of a book, Sex Variants: A Study in Homosexual Patterns, which contains stories collected in the early 20th century from queer subjects by a queer researcher, Jan Gay, whose groundbreaking work was then co-opted by a committee, her name buried. As Juan waits for his end, he and the narrator trade stories—moments of joy and oblivion—and resurrect lost loves, lives, mothers, fathers, minor heroes. The past is with us, beside us, ahead of us; what are we to create from its gaps and erasures?

Inspired by Kiss of the Spider Woman, Pedro PáramoVoodoo Macbeth, the book at its own center and the woman who created it, oral histories, and many more texts, images, and influences, Justin Torres’s Blackouts is a work of fiction that sees through the inventions of history and narrative. An extraordinary work of creative imagination, it insists that we look long and steady at the world we have inherited and the world we have made—a world full of ghostly shadows and flashing moments of truth.

Judges Citation

Blackouts is a novel of aesthetic complexity, multiplicity, and beauty. Justin Torres responds to the literal, metaphorical, and historical erasures of queer sexuality, slowly unfolding more and more inventive “blackouts”—revealing, divulging, or re-elaborating mainstream narratives and thus creating newer and truer meanings. In the process of balancing fact and fiction, Torres creates a boldly original novel that both challenges and satisfies, and ultimately becomes an inventive artistic polysemy, inspirational and breathtaking.


Justin Torres accepts the 2023 National Book Award for Fiction for Blackouts

Justin Torres at the 2023 National Book Awards Finalist Reading