Alumnus Jakob Guanzon '17 Publishes 'Abundance'
BY Nicole Saldarriaga, March 31, 2021
Abundance, a debut novel by alumnus Jakob Guanzon '17, was released on March 2, 2021 by Graywolf Press to great critical acclaim. The novel was recently featured on NPR's All Things Considered, where Guanzon discussed the motivations and inspirations behind the book.
Abundance explores the life of a man and his son who experience anything but. Henry, who was only recently incarcerated for pushing opioids, tries to hold life together for himself and his eight-year-old son, Junior. After being evicted from their trailer and living in Henry's pickup truck for six months, Henry is acutely aware of the dwindling money in his pocket. In fact, the first chapter is titled $89.34—the sum total of Henry's resources. Each chapter title after that is a record of Henry's dwindling funds and rising debts. Just when Henry snags a job interview and things are looking up, their world comes crashing down again and Henry must figure out how to survive and care for his ailing son.
In the short time since its release, the book has received great praise. According to The New York Times Book Review, "This is worthy but heavy stuff...what Abundance captures is how mundane poverty is, and how psychologically punishing." Publishers Weekly called the novel "Harrowing...Guanzon's descriptions of grinding poverty are visceral...and Henry's attempts to fend off relentless adversity for the sake of his son are heartbreaking. This one hits hard." Booklist also highlighted the heaviness of the book's themes, calling the novel "an unforgettable portrait of incarceration's horrific wrath."
Associate Professor Gary Shteyngart also called Abundance "A searing and truthful portrait of American life full of beauty, honesty and unexpected grace."
In his recent NPR interview, Guanzon shared that he felt drawn to writing about poverty, hunger, and precarity because of his own past experiences in Minnesota. “I worked on a landscaping crew through high school," he said, "and put myself through college doing that... just, you know, grueling manual labor...I was studying sociology and it was this really bizarre time in my life where all the social critical theory topics that we were discussing in air-conditioned classrooms, I was getting to watch play out in the lives of my friends on the crew. And so graduation was this surreal experience of launching myself into these opportunities that my very, very close friends would never experience, just because of an education... They were the lifers, we called them. And I never thought about the kind of... brutality of that term, because it sounds like a prison sentence. But it can be... when you don't know what other chances you're going to have in life. So I really wanted to mine that experience.”
Jakob Guanzon was born in New York and raised in Minnesota. He holds an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University's School of the Arts, and lives in New York City. Abundance is his first novel.