Real Life (Riverhead)
Taking place over the course of a single summer weekend, Real Life chronicles the life of Wallace, a young black graduate student studying biochemistry at a Midwest university. While navigating racial, class, and sexual tensions in his lab—as well as his friend community, with whom he feels both love and alienation—Wallace questions whether he should leave his program. When a tentative friendship transforms into a deeper connection, however, Wallace finds himself confronting the horrific trauma of his past, and wrestling with the challenge of building a new life while carrying such painful wounds. Told in poignant, heart-stopping sentences, the novel vividly immerses the reader into the insular world of graduate school—full of competitive lab sessions, sexually tense dinner parties, and complicated love triangles.
Like André Aciman or Alan Hollinghurst, Taylor depicts a story of sexual turmoil with beautiful intensity and rawness. Wallace’s story is one that is at times agonizingly intimate, and yet so fully human and resonant. Through absorbing narrative and richly drawn characters, Taylor forces readers to face the legacy of trauma, how it connects and isolates us from one another; to sit with uncomfortable but necessary questions around race, privilege and white fragility; and the differences that radically affect our experience in the world. As the title suggests, Real Life also reexamines the conventional metrics of success in America, asking how one is meant to live in a system designed to suppress. How are we to rescue one another from suffering, to heal from damage, without forsaking our identities? And is it truly possible to live a life that is honest and dignified—that coexists with pain and love, productivity and pleasure, community and self-realization—a life, in other words, that is real?
Praise for Real Life:
“The future of the novel is here and Brandon Taylor is that future’s name.”—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
“Real Life is a gorgeous work of art, and the introduction of a singular new voice.”—Danielle Evans, author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
“Brandon Taylor’s genius lies in the elaboration of ever more revelatory gradations of feeling; in his extraordinary debut he invents new tools for navigating the human dark in which we know one another. He is a brilliant writer, and this is a beautiful book.”—Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You
“Real Life is one of the finest fiction debuts I've read in the last decade—elegant and brutal, handled by an author whose attention to the heart is unlike any other's. A magnificent novel.”—Esmé Weijun Wang, New York Times-bestselling author of The Collected Schizophrenias and The Border of Paradise
Brandon Taylor is the senior editor of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading and a staff writer at Literary Hub. His writing has earned him fellowships from Lambda Literary Foundation, Kimbilio Fiction, and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop. He holds graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa, where he was an Iowa Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in fiction.
Author Photo by Bill Adams
Miles Klee is MEL’s resident tank-top dirtbag, shitposter and meme expert. He edits the website's book section and is also the author of the novel Ivyland and a story collection, True False.