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Brandon Taylor Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Real Life (2020)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Brandon Taylor is a staff writer at Lit Hub and also a senior editor at Recommended Reading’s Electric Literature. His work has earned him fellowships at the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop, Kimbilio Fiction and the Lambda Literary Foundation. Taylor went to the University of Iowa, where he attended the Iowa Writers Workshop. He also graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison. For the most part, he has been known for his short fiction which has been published all over the internet in places such as “West Branch Wired,” “Gulf Coast,” “Bull Men Magazine” and “Catapult Community” among many other places. Taylor published his first novel “Real Life” in 2020.

As a queer man, Brandon was first inspired to get into writing when he read “Call Me by Your Name” by Andre Aciman. The novel was set in the 1980s and told the story of a romantic relationship between Elio Perlman a curious and precocious 24-year-old Italian-American Jewish boy and Oliver a 17-year-old American Jewish boy. He read the novel in 2007 at a time when he was coming out as gay and it gave him a reason to believe that his identity was normal. Given his traumatic past, Brandon loves to hold nothing back as he says things he wants to say right on the page. He has said that writing down his feelings and thoughts is something of a coping mechanism that he has used for a long time. This honesty is evident right from the title of his debut novel “Real Life” that is about a Midwestern gay black doctorate student who is struggling with what it means to live a real-life and the complexities of relationships. In an interview, Brandon said that he has always loved campus novels and after many years of writing short fiction, he decided to write one himself. Moreover, he also wanted to write a novel that had queer and black people as leads, since most of the genre did not include minorities.

Similar to the authors Alan Hollinghurst and Andre Aciman, Brandon Taylor tells a story of sexual turmoil with gorgeous rawness and intensity. “Real Life” is the story of Wallace told in a resonant and human way yet it is also agonizingly intimate. Through his character, he tells of a legacy of trauma and how it isolates and connects us from one another. He also forces his reader to confront questions about white fragility, privilege and race and the differences that make our experiences in the world radically different. The novel is an exploration of the traditional metrics of success in the US and asks how minorities are expected to live in a system that was designed to oppress them. Brandon asks how we can keep our identities intact yet help others heal from damage after rescuing them from their suffering. He asks if it is possible for people to live a real life that is dignified and honest in combining love and pain, self-realization and community, pleasure and productivity. It is exceptional writing that is intricately written to make a powerful narrative. Taylor tackles concepts of need, the perils of graduate education, desire, loneliness and blackness in a predominantly white society. The lead is written with tenderness and nuance yet comes out as a complex character that wants to open himself to others yet remains closed unto himself. The erotic is a sharp undercurrent in the novel as the author writes of bodies in the physical world to make for a stunning debut that combines the emotional and the physical.

Brandon Taylor’s “Real Life” is set in a university town in the Midwest and features the lead character as a young black man pursuing his doctorate studies in biochemistry. Wallace had a troubled childhood back home in Alabama and with education finally managed to get away from it all. He now lives in the Midwest among white friends where he is in limbo as he often feels like he belongs but also like an outsider. As a gay man, most of his friends are also queer men though his best friends are Brigit and Emma. Over a weekend in the summer, he got into a cautious relationship with a fellow student named Miller. It turns out to be a weekend of emotional turmoil given that Miller has never had a gay relationship. The sex and conversations lead them into strange places where they get to confront their past trauma and emotions. When Monday comes along, they have physically and literally been damaged by their two-day relationship and are now facing an emotionally uncertain future. The complex relationships and lives of their friends mean that every party, dinner, and conversation has racial and sexual undertones. Wallace has to deal with casual but regular racism from his colleagues in the lab but also some of the people he deems friends. While he deceives himself that he is getting used to it, he often seethes with rage at those who perpetrate it and those that refuse to stand up against the offenders.

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