Body Grammar: A Novel (Paperback)
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A coming-of-age queer love story set in the glamorous but grueling world of international modeling—a "terrific debut ... roiling with deep questions of identity and art, love, and the irrepressible need for meaning in life" (Jess Walter, bestselling author of The Cold Millions)
By the time Lou turns eighteen, modeling agents across Portland have scouted her for her striking androgynous look. Lou has no interest in fashion or being in the spotlight. She prefers to take photographs, especially of Ivy, her close friend and secret crush.
But when a hike ends in a tragic accident, Lou finds herself lost and ridden with guilt. Determined to find a purpose, Lou moves to New York and steps into the dizzying world of international fashion shows, haute couture, and editorial shoots. It’s a whirlwind of learning how to walk and how to command a body she’s never felt at ease in. But in the limelight, Lou begins to fear that she’s losing her identity—as an individual, as an artist, and as a person still in love with the girl she left behind.
A sharply observed and intimate story of grief and healing, doubt and self-acceptance set against the hyper-image-conscious industry of modeling and high fashion, Body Grammar shines with the anxieties of finding your place in the world and the heartbreaking beauty of pursuing love.
A VINTAGE ORIGINAL
About the Author
Jules Ohman received an MFA from the University of Montana and cofounded the nonprofit Free Verse. She coordinates Literary Arts’ Writers in the Schools program and lives in Portland, Oregon, with her wife.
ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF THE SUMMER: BuzzFeed • Thrillist • Electric Literature • Autostraddle • Apartment Therapy • The Lesbrary
“Body Grammar is gorgeously written; it’s chic, vivid, and glittering. It’s also sticky with big truths and stinging heartaches. Jules Ohman is a real talent.”
—Jami Attenberg, author of All This Could Be Yours
“Ohman deftly crafts a heart-aching, healing, and clarifying journey of self-acceptance, trauma recovery, and queer love in this debut coming-of-age novel.”
—Dahlia Adler, BuzzFeed
“Deeply moving. . . . If you don’t find yourself rooting for Lou and Ivy all the way through, then I don’t think we can be friends, tbh.”
—Corinne Sullivan, Cosmopolitan
“Like a figure in a glossy magazine ad, Ohman’s debut novel is lithe and invitingly mysterious.”
—Michelle Hart, Electric Literature
“A terrific debut, cool and laconic on its glamorous surface, but roiling with deep questions of identity and art, love, and the irrepressible need for meaning in life. Jules Ohman is a young writer worth watching.”
—Jess Walter, bestselling author of The Cold Millions
“Ohman writes on bodies exquisitely, and the modeling world is fleshed out with great worldbuilding details. . . . Body Grammar does its best work in its quiet contemplations of grief and heartbreak but also in the ways it weaves gender and queerness into its narrative. . . . Never once does it feel like there’s a coming out story in Body Grammar. These are more like stories of young people coming into themselves.”
—Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Autostraddle
“[Body Grammar] explores grief, love, creativity, youth, and the nuanced grammar of the body through a lens of queerness and gender expansiveness. Ohman peppers the book with true-to-life detail from the wild word of runway shows and the fast-paced modeling lifestyle while still taking care to construct a complex queer bildungsroman.”
—Sarah Neilson, them
“Set in the gritty and fascinating world of high fashion, Body Grammar itself feels bravely unadorned, its face bare and without artifice. Ohman has a gift for articulating subtle states of mind, not just what a character is thinking, but how it feels for the thoughts to be moving through them. She lands in each moment so lightly, like a bird hovering over a branch. The result is a coming of age story that captures the terror of first love and first loss with the subtle delicacy of a watercolor. Remarkable.”
—Rufi Thorpe, author of The Knockout Queen
“A story so captivating from start to finish that it’s difficult to believe it’s a debut. . . . Refreshing and realistic. . . . Ohman craftily weaves together both the delicate and the dense, allowing the reader to feel the currents of [the book’s] defining themes, including queerness, first love, grief, identity, healing and acceptance. . . . Thanks to the breadth of its ideas and the quality of Ohman’s writing, the novel is a true gem that seems to exist beyond time.”
—Sara Giza, Willamette Week
“Body Grammar is prescient and provocative, a stunning exploration of the complex relationship between artistic creation and queer first love. Ohman writes with graceful, measured precision about image and self-image, seeing and being seen. Delicate, empathetic, and full of delicious longing, this is a gleaming coming-of-age novel from a tremendously talented debut writer.”
—Kimberly King Parsons, author of Black Light
"Jules Ohman has fashioned an utterly original account of a young person struggling with a combination of thwarted desire, rocketing fame, and an urgent need to understand what her life is beneath its veneer. Her struggles possess a flinty dignity that is reflected in Ohman’s stately and tender prose. Here is a debut to savor."
—Deirdre McNamer, author of Aviary
“Thrust into the hurricane that is the modeling industry, Lou takes on the weight of finding purpose. The evocative narrative that explores the relationship between movement and self-expression in this title is gripping, nearly transporting readers into the bodies and minds of the characters. . . . This coming-of-age tale [contains] tender moments of queer connection and raw vulnerability.”
—Grace Caternolo, Library Journal
“Ohman does a commendable job of taking readers inside the world of fashion. . . . Ohman’s novel is inarguably well written and . . . will surely find a devoted readership.”
—Michael Cart, Booklist
“Perceptive. . . . Ohman captures the uncertainties of early adulthood and queer love with a clear eye. . . . Ohman is a talented writer.”