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Nine brave, wise, and spellbinding stories make up this award-winning debut. In “When She is Old and I Am Famous” a young woman confronts the inscrutable power of her cousin’s beauty. In “Note to Sixth-Grade Self” a band of popular girls exert their social power over an awkward outcast. In “Isabel Fish” fourteen-year-old Maddy learns to scuba dive in order to mend her family after a terrible accident. Alive with the victories, humiliations, and tragedies of youth, How to Breathe Underwater illuminates this powerful territory with striking grace and intelligence.
“A major new talent. . . . How to Breathe Underwater is a dark and beautiful book.” —The New York Times Book Review
“These stories are without exception clear-eyed, compassionate and deeply moving. . . . Even her most bitter characters have a gift, the sharp wit of envy. This, Orringer’s first book, is breathtakingly good, truly felt and beautifully delivered.” —The Guardian
“Orringer’s engaging wit, her eye for social detail, her ear for patterns of speech and thought, and her insights into human nature proclaim her a writer to be reckoned with.” —Los Angeles Times
"Captivating. . . . Orringer limns the ordinary, terrifying time between childhood and maturity so skillfully.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“The harsh landscape in which Orringer’s characters dwell corresponds to the fierce beauty of her writing. Even the grimmest of these stories conveys, along with anguish, a child's spark of mystery and wonder.” —The New York Times
“Unclouded by sentimentality . . . Orringer endows her situations and her characters—adults as well as children—with complexity and humor. . . . She writes with penetrating intelligence and remarkable self-possession.” —The Boston Globe
“How to Breathe Underwater is unbelievably good: the humiliations and cruelties and passions of childhood, sparkling fresh prose, a writer with a big heart and an acute sense of the small things that loom large in our lives.” —Monica Ali, The Guardian
“Intelligent, heartfelt stories that tell a whole new set of truths about growing up American. Julie Orringer writes with virtuosity and depth about the fears, cruelties, and humiliations of childhood, but then does that rarest, and more difficult, thing: writes equally beautifully about the moments of victory and transcendence.” —George Saunders
“How to Breathe Underwater is an outstanding collection. Orringer writes about the things that everyone writes about—youth, friendship, death, grief, etc.—but her narrative settings are fresh and wonderfully knotty. So while her themes are as solid and recognizable as oak trees, the stuff growing on the bark you’ve never seen before. . . .The moment I finished it I bought myself a first edition, and then another. It’s that sort of book. —Nick Hornby, The Believer
“Julie Orringer is the real thing, a breathtaking chronicler of the secrets and cruelties underneath the surface of middle-class American life. These are terrific stories—wise, compassionate and haunting.” —Dan Chaon
“In How to Breathe Underwater, Julie Orringer delves into the complex lives of girls and young women, and with uncommon courage and exceptional clarity she shows us what she finds: passionate, often disturbing feelings of longing and jealousy and grief; an intense struggle to make sense of the unfathomable world of adults, and above all a determination to survive. These are tough, beautiful stories, piercing and true, and they mark the debut of an exceptionally gifted writer.” —Ann Packer