Praise for Why We Came to the City


“Why We Came to the City is a tremendous accomplishment: an elegant and deeply moving meditation on friendship and mortality, both fearless and finely wrought. I believe this book will stay with me for a very long time.” —Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven

“Fantastic. This beautiful, boisterous novel is a paean to New York, to the hubris of youthful optimism, and, especially, to the powerful magnet of friendship. It’s full of as much heartache and humor as the city itself. And like the city, this story will break you apart in a dozen ways, only to teach you, tenderly, how to put yourself back together. I wanted it never to end, but when I read the last page, I loved it even more. Jansma is a star.”—Alena Graedon, author of The Word Exchange

“Like A Little Life and The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Jansma’s Why We Came to the City shows us, with beauty and insight, what it’s like to be young and smart in this time, and in this place. It’s a major achievement.” —Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life

Kristopher Jansma: Why We Came to the City

Tuesday March 1, 2016
07:00 pm

Tags: Event




Photo Credit: Michael Levy


Kristopher Jansma, author of the popular debut novel The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, returned to The Center to discuss his new novel Why We Came to the City. This is the story of a group of twenty-something friends navigating life in New York City. When tragedy strikes, the group must grapple with what adulthood really means and how to remain friends through their grief. Why We Came to the City is a poignant coming of age story written with charm and hope.  

About Why We Came to the City

December, 2008. A heavy snowstorm is blowing through Manhattan and the economy is on the brink of collapse, but none of that matters to a handful of guests at a posh holiday party. Five years after their college graduation, the fiercely devoted friends at the heart of this warm, richly absorbing novel remain as inseparable as ever: editor and social butterfly Sara Sherman, her troubled astronomer boyfriend George Murphy, loudmouth poet Jacob Blaumann, classics major turned investment banker William Cho, and Irene Richmond, an enchanting artist with an inscrutable past.


Amid carefree revelry and free-flowing champagne, the friends toast themselves and the new year ahead—a year that holds many surprises in store. They navigate ever-shifting relationships with the city and with one another, determined to push onward in pursuit of their precarious dreams. And when a devastating blow brings their momentum to a halt, the group is forced to reexamine their ambitions and chart new paths through unexpected losses.


Kristopher Jansma’s award-winning debut novel, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, was praised for its “wry humor” and “charmingly unreliable narrator” in The New Yorker and hailed as “F. Scott Fitzgerald meets Wes Anderson” by The Village Voice. In Why We Came to the City, Jansma offers an unforgettable exploration of friendships forged in the fires of ambition, passion, hope, and love. This glittering story of a generation coming of age is a sweeping, poignant triumph.


Kristopher Jansma is the winner of the 2014 Sherwood Anderson Award for Fiction. His first novel, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, received an Honorable Mention for the 2014 PEN/Hemingway Award and was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize. He has written for The New York TimesStoryZYZZVASliceThe BelieverAdult and the Blue Mesa Review. He is an assistant professor at SUNY New Paltz College and a graduate instructor at Sarah Lawrence College. Find more at