Lot

Bryan Washington. Riverhead, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-525-53367-2
Washington debuts with a stellar collection in which he turns his gaze onto Houston, mapping the sprawl of both the city and the relationships within it, especially those between young black and brown boys. About half of the stories share a narrator, whose transition into manhood is complicated by an adulterous and absent father, a hypermasculine brother, a sister who leaves their neighborhood the first chance she gets, and a mother who learns that she and her restaurant may no longer be welcome in a gentrifying Houston. All this is on top of his grappling with the revelation that he might be attracted to men. Washington is exact and empathetic, and the character that emerges is refreshingly unapologetic about his sexuality, even as it creates rifts in his family. In general, there is a vein of queerness in these stories that runs deep and rich. Washington excels when he gets playful with his narration, like the Greek chorus of “Alief,” in which the residents of an apartment complex acknowledge their role in an affair and its disastrous ending. And in the best stories, such as “South Congress,” “Waugh,” and “Elgin,” Washington captures the dual severity and tenderness of the world for young people. Washington is a dynamic writer with a sharp eye for character, voice, and setting. This is a remarkable collection from a writer to watch. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/07/2019
Release date: 03/01/2019
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