Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington #Lot @AtlanticBooks #BookReview #BookClub

Lot by Bryan Washington

Originally published: August 2021

Author: Bryan Washington

Published by: Atlantic

Genre: Short Stories

Length: 240 pages

Reading dates: 29-31 May 2022

The Shoreham by Sea book club are following the Chichester Libraries Reading Challenge this year and the choice for May was a book that celebrates diversity. We always make suggestions and then vote (I always try and choose something off my TBR) and my choice Lot was the winner!

In an apartment block, the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, trying to dodge his brother’s fists and resenting his older sister’s absence. He’s also discovering he likes boys…

All around him his friends and neighbours experience the tumult of living in the margins. Their stories – of living, thriving and dying across the city’s myriad neighbourhoods – are stitched throughout the boy’s life to reveal a young woman caught out in an affair, the fortunes of a rag-tag baseball team and a group of young hustlers, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, and the fate of a camera-shy mythical beast. With brilliant and soulful insight into what makes a community, a family and a life, Lot is about love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms.

For such a short book, it took me a little while to get into the rhythm of Lot. The short stories are all focused in the suburbs of Houston in Texas and focuses on the marginalised citizens – those who are one pay check away from being homeless, the undocumented citizens, the drug dealers and sex workers.

The first story is told from the point of view of a young boy, the son of a black mother and Latino father who lives with his older sister and brother, above the restaurant they own. His older sister has met a white boy and had a child, his older brother is sleeping around and getting into fights and our narrator is hanging around with a family of undocumented Mexicans, masturbating with the teenage boy who lives with them.

The stories then move around the neighbourhood, sometimes moving back to our original narrator, mainly focussing on queer men of colour. There is a story of a black woman who is caught out having an affair with a white man, the story of two young men who find a Chupacabra and hope to make their fortune, the story of how another man came to be a driver for a drug dealer and the story of male sex workers who share a house and the gamble they take with their lives.

I’m glad I waited before I reviewed this because now a few days after I finished it I appreciate the stories and writing much more than I did when I finished. While reading it I found some of the language inaccessible – the slang interspersed with Spanish meant the prose didn’t read easily for me. But now I look back on it I can see more positives – some of the stories were more memorable than others but all were gritty, grim and shocking in their own ways. The stories don’t always conclude which gives the feeling we are just hearing tales of the neighbourhood and the endings aren’t happy but I guess that is real life for the people Washington talks about here.

I’m not sure this book celebrates diversity but it was a good read none the less. I enjoyed reading short stories for a change and I was shocked by what I learnt. Well written but tragic, this book will certainly be one that I remember.

About the author:

Bryan Washington

Bryan Washington has written for the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, BuzzFeed, The Paris Review, Boston Review, Tin House, One Story, GQ, FADER, The Awl, and Catapult. He lives in Houston, Texas.

Website: https://brywashing.com/

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