An Innocent Fashion
The literary love-child of The Devil Wears Prada and The Bell Jar, this singular debut novel is the story of Ethan, a wide-eyed new Ivy League grad, who discovers that his dream of “making it” at leading New York City fashion magazine Régine may well be his undoing.
When Ethan St. James graduates from Yale, he can’t wait to realize his dream of becoming a fashion editor at Régine. Born Elián San Jamar, he knew from childhood that he was destined for a “more beautiful” life than the one his working-class parents share in Texas—a life inspired by Régine’s pages. A full ride to the Ivy League provided the awakening he yearned for, but reality hits hard when he arrives at Régine and is relegated to the lowest rung of the ladder.
Mordantly funny and emotionally ruthless, An Innocent Fashion is about a quintessential millennial—naïve, idealistic, struggling with his identity and sexuality—trying to survive in a glamorous but cut-throat industry, and a city, notorious for attracting new graduates only to chew them up and spit them out. Oscillating between melodrama and whip-smart sarcasm, pretentiousness and heartbreaking vulnerability, increasingly disillusioned with Régine and his two best friends from Yale, both scions of WASP privilege, Ethan begins to unravel.
As the narratives of his conflicted childhood, cloistered collegiate experience, and existential crisis braid together, this deeply moving coming-of-age novel for the 21st century spirals towards a devastating truth: You can follow your dreams, but sometimes dreams are just not enough.
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"Writing in a fervently literary style that flirts openly with the traditions of Salinger, Plath, and Fitzgerald, Hernández is a diamond-sharp satirist and a bracingly fresh chronicler of the heartbreak of trying to grow up. Honest and absurd, funny and tragic, wild and lovely, this novel describes modern coming-of-age with poetic precision." -Kirkus Reviews (Read full review here.)
"Hernandez’s debut ambitiously combines the socialites of The Great Gatsby, an Oscar Wildean sexual fluidity, and cutthroat fashionistas reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada (2003). The postcollege blues and challenges of becoming, as Ethan puts it, “a shriveled compromise, an adult,” are vivid and relatable to many millennials." -Booklist
“Former Vogue intern Hernández’s new novel explores the magazine industry through a different lens than past insider tomes . . . With a sure hand, Hernández leads his readers into an overlapping world of Ivy-League pedigree (where money and drinks flow freely with the tides of friendship) and corporate hustle (where publicly demeaning a co-worker is a spectator sport.)" -Vanity Fair (Read full review & interview here.)
“What actually happens when these pampered elites emerge from their bastions of privilege and move into the morass of bill-paying, workplace hangovers and emotional entanglements? R.J. Hernández tackles this question elegantly in his debut novel, An Innocent Fashion. . . . Victims of their affected apathy and subject, beneath their veneer of disinterested sophistication, to the same immemorial terrors and heartbreaks, Madeline, Dorian and Ethan are eminently believable." -The Washington Post (Read full review here.)
“Compelling.... Entertaining.... Hernández’s dark view of innocence makes him a novelist to watch.” -Telegraph
“Just when you think you’ve read enough about the rising American generation, the smartest debut comes along and proves you wrong. Hernández slow-cooks Ivy League privilege, high fashion orthodoxy, ambition, and the agony of not belonging, teasing you between hysteria and resignation. A feast.” -Ioannis Pappos, author of Hotel Living (finalist for Lambda Literary and Edward White Debut Fiction awards)
"An unapologetic view into the underbelly of fashion media...where a person's social background is scrutinized just as much as his skills and intellect." -People (Read full review & interview here.)
“Lose yourself in the world of a fictional fashion magazine ... Hernández creates a hybrid coming-of-age story mixed with a fashion industry tale that’s fast-paced and full of drama.” -Elle, “19 Summer Books That Everyone Will Be Talking About”
“By turns charmingly funny and mordantly dark, R.J. Hernández’s debut is a modern fable for the Instagram generation—with a timeless, all-that-glitters-is-not-gold moral at its heart.” -Rumaan Alam, author of Rich and Pretty
"Triumphant ... a haunting exploration of personal style, class divisions, and mental health saturated in the sensual imagery of New York’s ritziest nightclubs and unabashed personal vanity ... An Innocent Fashion is a gripping journey through the halls of high fashion told through a voice seldom used on today’s shelves: that of great American Classics." -Out (Read full review & interview here.)
“An Innocent Fashion is reflective of our contemporary New York City—rollicking, indulgent and full of beauty one minute, and despairing, haunting, and full of grit the next. And above all—one of a kind, and the best of its kind.” -Christine Reilly, author of Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday
“Approaches a typical portrayal of the high-brow worlds of academia and fashion only to break them open, exposing the racist and classist stigmas that govern them.… Darkly entertaining, emotionally exhausting, and overall, well worth reading.” -Edge Media Network (Read full review here.)
“Hernández’s writing is beautiful, and the story offers a searing take on privilege, glamour, and the socialite scene. Charming and very astute.” -Travel+Leisure
“We often assume debut novels are autobiographical ... in this case that seems to be very true. In a very open nod to The Great Gatsby and F. Scott Fitzgerald, this is a story of a poor outsider looking in at this very wealthy world of fashion, and you follow his path away from innocence.” -Clay Smith, editor-in-chief of Kirkus Reviews
"A tussle of identity politics set against a background of fashion." -The Guardian
"Explores themes of millennial disillusionment, queerness and the fashion world from a 21st century perspective with classically romantic language...Captures the thematics of a jaded generation." -Huffington Post (Read full review & interview here.)
"Using the fast-paced, flamboyant fashion industry as a backdrop to highlight personal and social struggles, Hernandez’s darkly humorous novel outlines the familiar millennial conflict of sacrificing our values for success." -Bullett (Read full review & interview here.)
"A story about dreams, and how the one that saves you today can just as easily crush you tomorrow." -Rookie
READ R.J.'S LATEST PERSONAL ESSAY: "Being Seymour Glass" | The Paris Review