Author: Bryan Washington
Genre: Literary Fiction/Short Stories
Number of Pages: 240
The unnamed protagonist of most of the short stories in Lot is a mixed-raced young man living in Houston, Texas with his dysfunctional and abusive family. Both Hispanics and black people treat him badly because they consider him not to be a true member of either community. As if this didn’t make him feel alienated enough, he also starts to discover that he is gay and is frightened of the probable reaction of his homophobic family. Most of Lot follows this character as he grows up and struggles with prejudice, poverty, and the negative effects of gentrification on his community.
I found this book a little hard to emotionally connect to, but Bryan Washington’s talent as a writer is undeniable. I felt for the central character, but I found him and everyone else in his family hard to like (especially his dad and brother, who were complete pricks.) I found the whole thing almost relentlessly pessimistic and unsettling, and even though I didn’t think the main character was particularly likable I was still happy when something happened to him that wasn’t completely cruel and demeaning.
I didn’t like it all that much when there was the occasional short story that had nothing to do with the main character. The story about the rent boy who’s pimp gets HIV, for example, was interesting but it was also jarring because there was seemingly no connection with the main plotline. I also found the timeline of the main character’s life somewhat confusing and wasn’t at all sure what age he was in most of the stories. One of the main things I did like about this book was how it’s setting was completely different from anything I’d ever read about before.
I got a very good sense of the environment the main character inhabited and how it affected almost every element of his life. I was also impressed by the way the theme of prejudice that runs throughout the stories in never didactic or clear-cut. The main character dislikes whites and uses slurs to describe other gay men and he is treated like absolute shit by other minorities because he doesn’t fit in their boxes. I didn’t love this book by any means but I was impressed by the writing and how effortlessly it subverted coming-out and coming-of-age clichés. I’m looking forward to the next book this author writes.
One thought on “Book Review: Lot by Bryan Washington”