A.M. Homes is that rare writer whose work successfully elides the distinction between high art and pop culture. In incendiary and brilliantly crafted fiction, Homes shocks and sometimes disgusts, but never fails to entertain as she tears down the façade of suburban normality to reveal the darkness within.
Homes, who grew up reading Edward Albee and Arthur Miller, has a playwright’s ear for dialogue; like Albee and Miller, she is fascinated by the psychological underside of American realism, the disparity between how we present ourselves and who we really are. Her inspiring lectures on creativity have spurred other writers and artists to abandon fear and mediocrity and take real risks in their work. Iconoclastic, daring, and fiercely real, she is one of the most provocative literary voices today.
From her first novel, Jack, written when she was 19, about a boy coming to terms with his father’s homosexuality, Homes has shown herself to be utterly fearless in tackling subjects that range from controversial to stomach-turning: The End of Alice elicited praise for its unflinching portrayal of an imprisoned pedophile. Whether in the new-age luxury of contemporary Los Angeles in This Book Will Save Your Life, the white-picket fence uniformity of suburban New York in Music for Torching, or the overstuffed therapist’s chair in In A Country of Mothers, Homes’s novels offer an incisive look at who we are behind closed doors.
“[Homes is] one of the bravest, most terrifying writers working today. She never plays it safe, and it begins to look as if she can do almost anything.”
When it comes to this kind of scrutiny, Homes does not spare herself. Her memoir, The Mistress’s Daughter, was ten years in the making. It delves not just into her own experiences as an adopted child who meets her birth parents for the first time at the age of thirty, but also into the overwhelmingly complex issues of identity, genetics, and heritage that face every adoptee.
“[It is] as remarkable for its crystalline prose, flinty wit, and agile candor as for its arresting revelations… Homes masterfully distills angst and discovery into a riveting tale of nature and nurture that encompasses America’s great patchwork of immigrants and secrets.”
Homes returned to the suburbs for her latest novel, May We Be Forgiven, a funny yet unnerving tale of unexpected intimacies and of how one deeply fractured family might begin to put itself back together. The novel won the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction (previously the Orange Prize), one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world, and has even been adapted into an opera.
“I can’t remember when I last read a novel of such narrative intensity; an unflinching account of a catastrophic, violent, black-comic, transformative year in the history of one broken American family. A brilliant book.”
Homes is also the author of three collections of short stories, including her newest, Days of Awe. O, The Oprah Magazine called Days of Awe “exuberantly transgressive,” while Molly Livingston, writing in The Paris Review Daily, called the collection “fascinating . . . I consumed these stories exactly like a spectator of a good fight or a neighbor peering through the hedge, and I felt sharply observed in turn. Homes, with her fierce sharp wit, reveals her characters’ deep flaws. No one gets away with anything and the spectacle is delightful.” Lionel Shriver, writing in Financial Times, reflected, “The humour [in Days of Awe] is complicated by a wistfulness and yearning, a lostness and sorrow, that’s fruitfully inclusive.”
Homes’s writing appears frequently in ArtForum, Harper’s, Granta, McSweeney’s, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Elle, and Zoetrope. She is a Contributing Editor to Vanity Fair, Bomb, and Blind Spot. In addition, she has collaborated with artists such as Eric Fischl, Rachel Whiteread, Carroll Dunham, Catherine Opie, Bill Owens, Ghada Amer, and Ken Probst.
Homes wrote the screen adaptation of her novel, Jack, for Showtime, co-executive produced Falling Water and Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, and penned the libretto for the opera Chunky in Heat, based on her short story of the same name. Her work has been translated into twenty-two languages, and she has received fellowships from Guggenheim, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She has taught workshops in fiction, life writing, and creativity at Columbia University, NYU, and the New School. She currently teaches creative writing at Princeton and serves on several boards in the literary community. Born in Washington, DC, she lives in New York City.