What We Are
published by Grove Press
A blazing and authentic new literary voice, Peter Nathaniel Malae—a finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Literary Award—has written a bold debut novel—a raw and powerful, bullet-fast story that looks at contemporary America through the eyes of one disillusioned son. What We Are follows twenty-eight-year-old Samoan-American Paul Tusifale as he strives to find his place in a culture that barely acknowledges his existence. Within a landscape of sprawling freeways and dotcom headquarters, where the plight of migrant workers is ever-present, Paul drifts on and off the radar in San Jose, California, fighting to define himself within a system that has no easy or predetermined place for him. At first Paul tries to live outside society, an unemployed drifter who takes a personal interest in defiantly—even violently—defending those in need. But when life as an urban Robin Hood fails to provide the answers he seeks, Paul takes a chance on the straight-and-narrow: living in the power structure, getting a job, obeying the law, and seeking to reconnect with his family. Along the way, Paul moves through the lives of sinister old friends, suburban cranksters, and septuagenarian swingers, and battles to find the wisdom and faith he desperately needs, whether through adhering to tradition, or casting it aside.
A dynamic addition to America's diverse literature of the outsider, What We Are establishes Malae as an energetically gifted writer, whose muscular prose brings to life the pull of a departed father's homeland, the anger of class divisions, the noise of the evening news, and, in the end, beautifully renders the pathos of the disengaged.
Peter Nathaniel Malae is the author of the story collection, Teach the Free Man, a finalist for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Award, the Glasgow Prize and a notable book selection by the Story Prize. His forthcoming novel, What We Are, won the San Francisco Foundation/Intersection for the Arts Joseph Henry Jackson Award and the Arts Council Silicon Valley Fellowship in manuscript form.
"Peter Nathaniel Malae is the real deal. He’s like a young Nelson Algren or Richard Wright, one of those writers who can hit with both hands."