Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After graduating from Stanford University, she worked in the non-profit sector, teaching art and technology to youth in low-income communities. Following the success of her debut novel, The Language of Flowers, she co-founded Camellia Network (now Lifeset Network), a non-profit whose mission is to connect every youth aging out of foster care to the critical resources, opportunities, and support they need to thrive in adulthood. She currently lives in Monterey, CA, with her husband and four children. Connect with Vanessa on her website, Facebook and Twitter.
WE NEVER ASKED FOR WINGS (2016)
For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, fifteen, and Luna, just six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.
Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.
Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.
“Deftly blends family conflict with reassurance: Wings is like Parenthood with class and immigration issues added for gravitas.”—People (Book of the Week)
“This poignant story will stay in readers’ hearts long after the last page. . . . [Vanessa] Diffenbaugh weaves in the plight of undocumented immigrants to her tale of first- and second-generation Americans struggling to make their way in America. Moving without being maudlin, this story avoids the stereotypes in its stark portrayal of mothers who just want the best for their children.”—RT Book Reviews (Top pick)
“Diffenbaugh is a storyteller of the highest order: her simple but poetic prose makes even this most classically American story sing with a special kind of vulnerable beauty.”—Bustle
“[A] gripping, heartfelt exploration of a mother’s love, resilience and redemption.”—Family Circle
“Satisfying storytelling . . . Diffenbaugh delivers a heartwarming journey that mixes redemption and optimistic insight [and] confirms her gift for creating shrewd, sympathetic charmers.”—Kirkus Reviews
“I was hooked from the first breathtaking pages of We Never Asked for Wings, caring about this exquisitely vulnerable family, hoping right along with them on every page that each heart-rending, impossible choice would lead them somewhere better together.”—Lisa Genova, New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice
“Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s We Never Asked for Wings propels us into a mother’s heart as she and her family travel down a rocky path to understanding and forgiveness. With breathtaking imagery and lyrical prose, Diffenbaugh makes Letty’s growth from a troubled young mother to a responsible woman who learns to put her children first, but also allows herself the possibility of love, entirely believable. Hers is a hard-won victory you will cheer even as you wish this graceful, moving book would never end.”—Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife
Rights: Ballantine, North America; Garzanti, Italy; Macmillan/Mantle, UK; Macmillan, Australia; Bazar, Sweden; Swiat, Poland; Presses de la Cite, France; Blanvalet, Germany; Aschehoug, Norway; Kinnert, Israel; UCILA, Slovenia
THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS (2011)
A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.
Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.
"Enchanting, ennobling, and powerfully engaging, Diffenbaugh's artfully accomplished debut novel lends poignant testimony to the multitude of mysteries held in the human heart."—Booklist, starred review
“[An] original and brilliant first novel . . . a mesmerizing storyteller . . . I would like to hand Vanessa Diffenbaugh a bouquet of bouvardia (enthusiasm), gladiolus (you pierce my heart) and lisianthus (appreciation). . . . And there is one more sprig I should add to her bouquet: a single pink carnation (I will never forget you).”—Brigitte Weeks, The Washington Post
“A captivating novel in which a single sprig of rosemary speaks louder than words . . . The Language of Flowers deftly weaves the sweetness of newfound love with the heartache of past mistakes. . . . [It] will certainly change how you choose your next bouquet.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Fascinating . . . Diffenbaugh clearly knows both the human heart and her plants, and she keeps us rooting for the damaged Victoria.”—O: The Oprah Magazine (book of the week)
“Diffenbaugh effortlessly spins this enchanting tale, making even her prickly protagonist impossible not to love.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Compelling . . . immensely engaging . . . unabashedly romantic . . . an emotional arc of almost unbearable poignance.”—The Boston Globe
Rights: Ballantine, North America; Pan Macmillan, UK; Picador, ANZ; Dudaj, Albania; Sextante, Brazil; Kragozor, Bulgaria; Edicions 62, Catalan; Yilin, China; Znanje, Croatia; Euromedia, Czech; Lindhardt & Ringhof, Denmark; Varrak, Estonia; WSOY, Finland; Presses de la Cite, France; Droemer, Germany; Psichogios, Greece; Unieboek, Holland; Cartaphilus, Hungary; Forlagid, Iceland; Bentang Pustaka, Indonesia; Kinneret, Israel; Garzanti, Italy; Poplar, Japan; Woongjin, Korea; Zvaigzne ABC, Latvia; Almalittera, Lithuania; Tri, Macedonia; Aschehoug, Norway; Swiat Ksiazki, Poland; Objectiva, Portugal; Humanitas, Romania; Ripol Classic, Russia; Alnari, Serbia; Ikar, Slovakia; Ulia, Slovenia; Salamandra, Spain; Bazar Forlag, Sweden; Linking, Taiwan; Sanskrit, Thailand; Pegasus, Turkey; Vietnamese Women Publishing House, Vietnam
Audio Rights: Forlagid, Iceland; E-Book: Forlagid, Iceland