Variously described as “Generation Y,” “millennials,” and the rather uncharitable “Peter Pan Generation,” the generation spanning from the early 1980s to the early 2000s is beginning to come of age. Accompanying this generation’s gingerly forays into adulthood are its first literary voices. Here are five exciting millennial authors who have already begun to achieve success in the literary world.
1. Téa Obreht
Born in 1985 in Belgrade, then part of Yugoslavia, Téa Obreht launched herself onto the literary scene with her debut novel, The Tiger’s Wife. Written mostly while Obreht was a student at Cornell, the novel takes place in a fictional Balkan province during both the present and 50 years in the past. The novel chronicles the relationship of the female protagonist and her grandfather, a doctor. Obreht became the youngest author to win the prestigious Orange Prize, when it was awarded to her for The Tiger’s Wife in 2011.
2. Karen Russell
Born in 1981 and based in Florida, Karen Russell built on the previous success of her short story collection, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, with the publication of her first novel, Swamplandia!, in 2011. The novel follows the lives of the Sawtooth family and the run-down theme park, which bears the same name as the novel, in the everglades. The novel was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, though no prize was awarded that year. Russell’s work has garnered her several accolades, including the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award in 2009 and a spot on the New Yorker’s 2010 20 Under 40 List.
3. Haley Tanner
Born in 1982 in the Bronx, Haley Tanner made her literary debut in 2011 with her novel, Vaclav and Lena. Developed from a short story Tanner wrote while working on her MFA at the New School, the novel follows a love story that begins between the ten-year-old title characters when they meet in an ESL class in Brooklyn. Tanner has already sold publishing rights to the novel in 13 countries, as well as optioned film rights. Her debut work earned her a spot on the National Book Foundation’s 2012 5 Under 35 Award list.
4. John Brandon
A native of Florida’s Gulf Coast, John Brandon has made a name for himself in bringing to life the voices of the working class South. He has so far authored three novels, Arkansas, Citrus County, and A Million Heavens. Perhaps the most promising of the three, Citrus County plays with both the coming of age and crime genres, while somehow simultaneously subverting both. Also well received, his third novel, A Million Heavens shows the beginnings of Brandon stretching his legs as an author. The novel is narrated from the points of view of several characters, including a wolf.
5. Justin Torres
Born in 1980 in upstate New York, Justin Torres launched his literary career in 2011 with his autobiographical novel, We the Animals. Narrated first person plural from the point of view of the youngest of three brothers, the novel follows the childhoods of the brothers as they grow up in upstate New York with a white mother and abusive, Puerto Rican father. Torres has been awarded Stanford’s Stegner Fellowship and the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award.