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Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Bestselling author of The Language of Flowers and co-founder of Camellia Network, assisting foster care youth

  • About Vanessa Diffenbaugh

    Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s critically acclaimed debut novel The Language of Flowers spent 69 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into more than 40 languages, and was long-listed for The International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award, which aims to promote excellence in world literature.  There are nearly a million copies in print in the U.S. alone.

    In addition to being a writer, Diffenbaugh is also the co-founder of Camellia 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 in order to thrive in adulthood. In The Language of Flowers, Camellia means “My Destiny is in Your Hands,” signaling a belief in the interconnectedness of humanity—and serving as a reminder that the destiny of our nation lies in the hands of our youngest citizens.

    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. She and her husband PK have four children: Donovan, Tre’von, Graciela, and Miles. Tre’von, a former foster youth, currently attends New York University on a Gates Millennium Scholarship.  Donovan, who came into their life when he aged out of the foster care system at eighteen, is a weightlifter and lives at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.  The Diffenbaugh family will legally adopt Donovan later this year.

    Diffenbaugh has been invited by universities, literary festivals, state departments, and non-profit organizations around the country to speak about her experiences and the themes of her novel.  Additionally, she has been a guest lecturer at both the Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program and the Harvard Kennedy School, and she was a headlining speaker at the 22nd annual Beyond the Bench Conference, which focused on equal access to justice for children and families and honored the legacies of Clarence Earl Gideon and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Diffenbaugh’s new second novel, We Never Asked for Wings, features a story that delves into motherhood, young love, education and immigration. She currently lives in Monterey, CA.

  • Speaking Topics

    The Language of Flowers: Concepts of family and motherhood

    The Victorian Language of Flowers: History, definitions and the ability of flowers to transform our world

    My Foster Care Journey: The inspiration for The Language of Flowers

  • Video

  • Praise for Vanessa Diffenbaugh

    Praise for We Never Asked for Wings

    This poignant story will stay in readers hearts long after the last page…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!)

    [A] gripping, heartfelt exploration of a mother’s love, resilience and redemption.

    Family Circle

    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.

    ...Diffenbaugh delivers a heartwarming journey that mixes redemption and optimistic insight in equal measure...Diffenbaugh's latest confirms her gift for creating shrewd, sympathetic charmers.

    Kirkus Reviews

    Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s We Never Asked for Wings propels us right 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

    Praise for The Language of Flowers

    [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

    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)
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  • Vanessa Diffenbaugh travels from Monterey, CA

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