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Stories of a young man finding his place among family and community in Houston, from a powerful, emerging American voice.

In the city of Houston - a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America - the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He's working at his family's restaurant, weathering his brother's blows, resenting his older sister's absence. And discovering he likes boys.

This boy and his family experience the tumult of living in the margins, the heartbreak of ghosts, and the braveries of the human heart. The stories of others living and thriving and dying across Houston's myriad neighborhoods are woven throughout to reveal a young woman's affair detonating across an apartment complex, a rag-tag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, and a reluctant chupacabra.

Bryan Washington's brilliant, viscerally drawn world leaps off the page with energy, wit, and the infinite longing of people searching for home. With soulful insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life, Lot is about love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms.

222 pages, Paperback

First published March 19, 2019

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About the author

Bryan Washington

16 books899 followers
Bryan Washington is an American writer. He published his debut short story collection, Lot, in 2019 and a novel, Memorial, in 2020.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,155 reviews
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,440 reviews29.4k followers
July 10, 2019
"It didn't take long to see that there's the world you live in, and then there are the constellations around it, and you'll never know you're missing them if you don't even know to look up."

Lot , Bryan Washington's new story collection, is raw, potent, and packs a powerful, emotional punch.

Taking place in Houston before and after Hurricane Harvey, many of the stories focus on one young man, the son of an erstwhile Latino father and a black mother, as he grows into adulthood, confronts the prejudice and the social and economic realities of the community he lives in, this community of immigrants.

At the same time, he comes to terms with his sexuality, although he never views his encounters with other boys and men as anything more than physical.

There are stories exploring the complicated relationships in broken families, the expectations of masculinity, the treatment of women as often little more than sexual objects and maids, and the menial and dangerous jobs boys and men living in these neighborhoods turn to. Washington's stories explore what makes a community, what makes a family, what makes a life.

Washington's stories aren't quite happy. Even those that appear to have a more positive spin have a tinge of sadness or elements of disaster or trouble just around the corner. But many of the stories work despite their tone because of Washington's tremendous writing ability—his use of language, his talent with imagery which conjures images of setting and character in your head.

While I didn't love all of the stories, some really stuck with me, including: "Alief," in which a community reveals a neighbor's affair to her husband but is unprepared for the destruction that might cause; "610 North, 610 West," where a son is brought face-to-face with his father's infidelity; "Shepherd," which tells of how the visit of a cousin from Jamaica causes chaos among family members; "South Congress," about an interesting relationship between a local drug dealer and a teenager who barely speaks English; and my favorite story, "Waugh," about a group of young hustlers.

I'm a big fan of short stories, although I've not read many collections this year. I was definitely struck by the power and poignancy of Washington's voice, and I think Lot hints at the amazing career ahead of him.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2018.html.

You can follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
Profile Image for Michael.
657 reviews969 followers
April 25, 2019
I read and reviewed this book for Lambda Literary, where my full review can be found.

Introspective and understated, Lot gives voice to the silenced pain of Houston’s Black and Latinx working class. The collection of thirteen linked short stories alternates between tracking an unnamed narrator’s coming of age and exploring the diverse experiences of the boy’s fellow Houstonians. In terse prose, author Bryan Washington fully renders the inner lives of gay men struggling to endure the hardships of poverty and racism, while also sketching a nuanced portrait of a gentrifying city. The collection expertly charts Houston’s social life and power dynamics, photographing the city at a moment of rapid development.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,855 reviews1,885 followers
April 5, 2022
2020 UPDATE Won a Lambda Literary Award in the Gay Fiction category. The Awards were announced on 31 May 2020.

Real Rating: 4.8* of five

My Review: This is not, appearances to the contrary, autobiographical. It's art, inspired by lived life, and Author Washington isn't its only model. He knew the models better than privileged and pampered Reader Person can. But there's a smoothness and facility that's the hallmark of the born writer, the one who wouldn't fit in no matter what or where or how they grew up. He didn't live in Alief, or maybe he did exist in that space but he was always apart and different and queer...but mostly he was born to be a writer. As always, I will employ the Bryce Method and go story by story with my visceral impressions only lightly toned down and/or tarted up.

Lockwood is a quick hit of what it means to be down and out, illegal, and queer. Also black and queer.
Once, I asked Roberto if he liked it in Texas. He looked at me forever. Called it another place with a name.
Could be worse, I said. You could be back home.
Home's wherever you are at the time, said Roberto.
You're just talking. That doesn't even mean anything.
It would, he said, if you knew you didn't have one.

I live in the same world as these boys and might as well be Arcturian. Yep. This one's a winner. Anything that can tell you that you don't know one single goddamned thing about the city, the state, the country that spawned you? That's a voice you need to listen to.

Alief gives the ragged and rowdy account of the end of several lives, two cheating bastards and a fool of a husband, with the full force and majesty of the Neighborhood behind it. Mistakes, obliviousness, the eternal unchanging voraciousness for Story that makes gossip so damned toxic yet irresistible, addictive. Like...well...reading, if we're all honest, dipping into the universes we weren't invited to inhabit. In this universe we're visiting, the Greek chorus of the folks living there is used to best effect as it dissects not predicts. A good choice, Author Washington.

610 North, 610 West locates us in Houston's geometry, using it as a quick way to orient us to the emotional poles of little man narrator's life. Ma isn't what Pa wants; he finds something he does want; life goes on, the myriad casualties spread in Houston's circular blast radius. Javi the vicious brother starts out ans stays shitty, abusive, homophobic; Jan the eldest sister vanishes, as so many without moorings but with ambitions do. Who's left? The gay little brother! Shocking! he murmured, clutching his pearls. Ma and her queer son. How did that ever happen.

Shepherd follows one young half-Jamaican to his summer of love, his Jamaican whore-cousin (the soursop woman!)'s summer of rest and recovery from multiple tragedies, his sister's sexed-up summer of post-college freshman-year freedom; lots of firsts, not a lot of happiness. Unlike the lower-class family's stories, the parents are window dressing. The boy doesn't become a man, but he knows he's going to and it isn't a comfortable thought. His cruelty to a kind woman is a harbinger of bad things to come, I fear.

Wayside a whole eight pages of horror. "Rick was...the most light-skinned out of all of us, and he carried himself like all of kindness in a bottle." We get down to the double horror of:
And that, mijos, is the worst and nastiest thing ever felt, thought, said. Our little man narrator doesn't report this with a flinch, just a numb and vacant, deadened, dead-end voice.

Bayou brings us the chupacabra, myth made flesh, that can't or won't save two of life's losers. Boys with names like TeDarus and Mixcoatl don't even inherit the meek's mite of World. They call out for attention, demand to be seen, heard, but when they get it they don't know what to do with it. Mix, poor thing, is gay in a world that needs someone to hate for being Other so he's it. TeDarus is a space-taker. Nothing can save them from oblivion. Nothing is going to change or get better. Like the chupacabra they found, they slip away and there's no proof they were ever here.

Lot is the heart of the book, the heart of the family. Everything comes to a head, breaks, spills its rage-pus down the sides of the boil that these wretched people fester inside. Javi the hater, Jan the jilter, father, mother...all just don't want to see any of the cesspit's contents they're grinding the youngest's face into. RUN I want to scream, take money for the sex, escape however you can! And I know I'm shoutin' down the well. He's not even going to inherit the cesspit.

South Congress has poor Guatemalan illegal Raúl hooked into small-time street-drug sellin' Avery; it's a sad if common tale of someone who was never going to do more than just get by getting by in a place that hates him for being, won't forgive him for existing. Then how that, finally, in the end, blows into smithereens is a shock because I wasn't expecting Author Washington to leave Raúl with an opportunity that he's smart enough to seize but dreads succumbing to. Pungent and packed.

Navigation is such a freakin' hopeless mess of a life story getting *worse* FFS as Nameless the Narrator rejects two...two!...separate chances to get his shit in order, maybe get above water by a flippin' nostril, but NOOOOOO

Javi would be proud. /sarcasm

Peggy Park is like the Biblical begats in Chronicles, only this time it's baseball in the ghetto. Bored me. Hard to do with baseball stories, but yeah.

Fannin is the last will and testament of Jan, the jilting sister, who saw her father in a bad way one last time but did nothing. I didn't like her before, now I really despise her. The world she's made is built on, not a lie exactly, a hollow place...an excavation of the root-ball her life sprang from. People like that? I don't envy them one single possession.

Waugh teaches us the lesson that Love's got shit to do with reality but will fuck you up worse than anything else. Poke loves Rod but betrays him by leaving him at Rod's lowest point; all to be with Emil the middle-aged refugee from a place that no longer exists (I'm guessing Lebanon based on his age and backstory). He loves Poke, but can't ever figure in to his picture Poke's love of his calling, the streets. Rod? No one sees it, no one says "oh yeah, that guy" and no one, when he goes looking, can tell Poke anything.

There's no closure to be had on betrayal.

Elgin is the beauty of failure, the glory of losing, the passionate need to fuck up again. Nicolás. The name that means People's Victory. He alone of all his people...Javi, dead in the ground; Mam booked out to Louisiana; Pa? *shrug*; Jan the arriviste, dreams drowned by Harvey...stayed in his place, stayed long after he lost the will to make a life; he won the loser's lottery by existing, just that, as his life spun out of reach. Sex with one-nighters does nothing to fill you up no matter how big a dick he has. Then what? Go to the sea, sit in the water, leave a sad and lonely and worthy man in your bed and....

What's left is existing before exiting. All there is.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,400 reviews8,121 followers
June 7, 2020
Kudos to Bryan Washington for writing a powerful, gritty short story collection that centers Black and Latinx working class queer voices. The stories honor the impact of racism, gentrification, and poverty on the characters’ wellbeing, while still ensuring that their individual stories and connections with one another take center stage. I most appreciated how Washington honors the difficulty of existing within a system designed to keep you down, as well as how he portrays the nuanced emotions that accompany the choices one makes to survive in such a system.

For some reason I did feel some emotional distance from these characters. I’m still trying to figure out where that distance comes from – perhaps it’s because our narrators are men and that distance is Washington showing how toxic masculinity and racism harm men of color’s emotional landscape. Or maybe it’s just that the stories are short stories so there wasn’t much room for that connection; it is uncommon that I really connect with a short story connection. Still, I’m looking forward to Washington’s novel Memorial that comes out in a few months, and I’m happy that he’s writing about relationships between queer men of color.
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 5 books13.5k followers
April 25, 2021
I was super excited to read Lot and after walking circles around it in bookstores for several weeks and throwing it tentative looks I eventually bought a copy and sat down to read it. I knew it was a gay book by a Black, queer author and since I'm always trying to make my bookshelf gayer and more diverse this was right up my alley. Until it wasn't.

It's a short book with just 220 pages which hold a number of interconnected short stories that are all set in Houston, Texas. We always circle back to the same young narrator and his family but his chapters are interspersed with those of other people in the neighbourhood, usually also young, queer men. I really enjoyed the first few stories since they skilfully set the tone, introduced me to the narrator's world and created a sense of belonging. But the more I read the more settled became the feeling of hopelessness and isolation. The characters are lost, don't dare to dream, have nowhere to go. And what's even more depressing is knowing that these stories are real, that this is the fate of many immigrants in a country that holds them down, starves them, treats them like vermin because they're Black and brown and poor.

It felt very real and often very dreadful and hence I disconnected. It's a great piece of fiction but it's not something I particularly enjoyed. I'm not a huge fan of literary fiction and I tend to stick to YA lit so maybe that's also a factor. Still, if you're in any way interested in this book, I say read it and hopefully you come to enjoy it more than me.

Find more of my books on Instagram
Profile Image for Book of the Month.
229 reviews12.5k followers
March 1, 2019
Why I love it
by Mat Johnson

I’m the greediest kind of fiction reader, because I want it all. I want a book that grabs me in a headlock and won’t let me put it down without a fight. I want a book with characters and conflicts that pull me in. I want a book that haunts me long after I’ve read its final page. I want it to let me see the world in a fresh way that’s been there the whole time yet has eluded me so far. And I got all this, and more, from Bryan Washington’s Lot.

Lot is a linked collection of stories that reads like a novel. Connected largely by a central, unnamed young man who carries the reader on his shoulders, it’s a portrait of the far back corner of Lockwood, a diverse, working-class neighborhood in Houston, Texas. A place where families struggle with how to be their true selves and survive at the same time. But Lot’s so much more than that.

The best way I can describe this book is that it’s alive. You don’t read Lot: It speaks to you, through a voice on the page so real, so intimate, you can almost hear it breathing in your ear. Debut author Bryan Washington is already a master storyteller, and this is just one of the many truths Lot shares with us.

Read more at: https://bookofthemonth.com/lot-444

Profile Image for Meike.
1,445 reviews2,180 followers
December 17, 2021
In 13 short stories, Washington writes about multicultural Houston, about the struggles of working class immigrant communities living under precarious conditions. While the even-numbered texts are stand-alone stories, the odd-numbered ones are interlinked, centering on Nicolás, a queer Afro-Latinx boy who gets older as the stories progress. His parents' marriage is broken, his homophobic brother deals drugs, his sister tries to get away from it all. The stories around this main thread set the scene of the whole neighbourhood, illuminating the lives of the people around Nic and his family.

Washington's writing his highly evocative, he only needs very few sentences to create atmosphere and draw the reader in. The bleak themes are often handled in a light-handed, sparse manner, which stresses that to the people portrayed, much of what happens appears to be mundane. Unlike most writing that takes a social realist approach, this debut collection works with lots of ellipses, throwaway sentences, and melancholic undertones. While some readers have experienced the frequent lack of specificity as a problem, I read it as a means to convey Nic's quest for self-definition and the overall atmosphere of nonchalantly being left behind that applies to the whole neighbourhood: What's dramatic is not seen and acknowledged as such by the wealthier, mostly white mainstream society. In a poetological twist, this leads to dramatic scenes being pictured in a matter-of-fact, vague tone.

As in Memorial, I enjoyed this author's clear, recognizable tone, which renders his writing highly accessible without taking away from the ambiguous states he focuses on. Granted, this is a debut collection, and not all texts are equally strong and memorable. Still, I'm extremely curious what Washington will write next.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,378 reviews518 followers
December 26, 2019
[3.4] These gritty, linked stories set in Houston are hard to read. I often felt like an outsider, looking in. My favorite stories are the those about the unnamed narrator and his family. There is a tenderness and a yearning underneath his tough edges. And finally, in the last story, my favorite, we hear his name spoken, with love.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,089 reviews7,946 followers
March 21, 2019
[3.5 stars]

A moving and unique collection of stories set in Houston, TX. I enjoyed that nearly half or more of the stories were told from the perspective of one character, while the others sprinkled throughout gave glimpses into the lives of various types of people around him in the city. At times I found myself a bit disconnected, and a few of the stories were not very memorable. But the ones that did hit me the right way really stand out. And as a debut this was pretty solid.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
470 reviews762 followers
December 23, 2022
In the days before COVID-19, in a time when one could get a book signed and meet an author, I met Attica Locke at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. I enthused on how brilliantly she brought the history and geography of our hometown of Houston to the page and she recommended Lot by Bryan Washington. This reminded me of Susan Straight: dark people overcoming poverty with language which is at times intoxicating but characters I'm already forgetting and no story I can remember. I quit this at the 20% mark. I'll let Roddy Doyle explain in his dazzling debut novel The Commitments, about a Dublin soul band.

--Brother Jimmy, said Joey The Lips. -- I'm worried -- About Dean.

-- Wha' abou' Dean?

-- He told me he's been listening to jazz.

-- What's wrong with tha'? Jimmy wanted to know.

-- Everything, said Joey The Lips. -- Jazz is the antithesis of soul.

-- I beg your fuckin' pardon!

-- I'll go along with Joey there, said Mickah.

-- See, said Joey The Lips. -- Soul is the people's music. Ordinary people making music for ordinary people. -- Simple music. Any Brother can play it. The Motown sound, it's simple. Thump-thump-thump-thump. -- That's straight time. Thump-thump-thump-thump. -- See? Soul is democratic, Jimmy. Anyone with a bin lid can play it. -- It's the people's music.

-- An' what's wrong with jazz? Jimmy asked.

--Intellectual music, said Joey The Lips. -- It's anti-people music. It's abstract.

-- It's cold an' emotionless, amn't I right? said Mickah.

-- You are. -- It's got no soul. It is sound for the sake of sound. It has no meaning. -- It's musical wanking, Brother.

I love jazz. In fact, I listen to it every day. Bryan Washington is playing jazz, but through no fault of his own, I'm playing in a Dublin soul band right now. I won't rate Lot because Washington is an excellent writer. I'm just not the audience for a language-focused novel. This book is beguiling echos filling the bottom of a well. There's no humor and not much dignity among his characters, who often talk in fortune cookie platitudes. I need to read something that grabs me and pulls me into a real story. Readers in the mood for Susan Straight would likely jam to this.
54 reviews3 followers
March 14, 2019
(I received this book for free via this site's giveaway program.)

I'm going to say something about this book that sounds like a compliment, but I don't mean it that way. So, if you're reading this review, you should feel free to interpret what I'm about to say however you like. If you think that it's a compliment, well, then maybe this is a book that you'd like. If you think that it's not a compliment, then maybe this is a book you should pass on.

With that said, here's my very brief take on "Lot": this reminds me a lot of Junot Diaz, but "Drown" Diaz, not "Oscar Wao" Diaz.

Now, again, that probably sounds like a compliment. To compare Washington to a famous, award-winning, possibly groundbreaking novelist is to offer him praise - or, at least, so it seems. But I didn't really love "Drown," and I have to say that I didn't love "Lot," either. Let me run down some of the reasons why:

-I feel like I learned almost nothing about Houston after having read this book. Maybe that's not Washington's fault - maybe, for instance, all American cities are homogenizing so quickly that there's nothing distinctive about Houston at all - but I like it when books have a strong sense of place, and this one did not. I think that Washington tried to establish this sense of place through the use of geographical proper nouns (streets, neighborhoods, etc.), but I've never been to Houston, so those names don't mean anything to me. So far as I can tell, this whole book could've taken place in Chicago or New York or Florida or southern California. Maybe your experience will be different, but that was my feeling.

-This prose style is no longer new or exciting to me. Again, Diaz (among others) was doing this stuff twenty-three(!!!) years ago. I'm no longer impressed just because Washington can intersperse Spanish and curse words in with his narration. I will give him this much credit, though: he doesn't italicize the Spanish, which I appreciate. It's about time that we gave up on that ridiculous convention.

-Too many of these stories have trapdoor endings. What I mean by that is this: the bulk of the story will be emotionally level or steady, and then in the last paragraph or so Washington will pull the bottom out of it. I understand that this is a stylistic choice and I know that it can work sometimes, but either it's not my favorite story pattern or else I just don't like the way that (or maybe the frequency with which) Washington does it. I'd prefer for the emotions in the story story to be moving the whole time.

-Probably my biggest complaint is that most of these stories feel like they're being overheard from the other side of a window. That is, rather than feeling deeply immersed in these characters' realities, I feel like everything is at a remove. In fact, this is such a trend with "Lot" that one of the stories is almost explicit in the way that it distances the reader from the narrative. In "South Congress," the narrator rides along with a drug dealer and listens to his stories about his life, his job, and so on. But because of this ride-along story structure and the brevity of the story, we, as readers, only get the barest sketch of the drug dealer's life. (After all, our narrator knows only what comes out in conversation, which is, realistically, not all that much.) The result of this is that, when the drug dealer's arc comes to an end, that end is not entirely satisfying - and then, when the *narrator's* arc ends a page or two later, we know so little about him (because we've spent the whole story with someone else) that it's even *less* satisfying. This is how I feel about most of the book: as though I'm in a car with Washington, listening to him tell gossipy stories about friends of his who I've never met. I get in, he talks for fifteen or twenty minutes, and I get out going, "...wait, who was that, again?"

Still, that being said, I do think that Washington has potential. "Navigation" was shaping up to be a subtle and interesting story before its gratuitous trapdoor ending, and "Peggy Park" is a nice piece of work (although it's also the shortest, and I can't decide whether that augurs well or poorly for Washington). If he can manage to peel himself away a little bit from the Diaz impression that he seems to be doing, and if he can find a story that requires him to break the surface instead of always skimming along it, I think that I'd enjoy reading Washington. So I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book, but I would recommend finding his first novel (assuming he gets around to one) in a bookstore and reading the first few pages to see if he's grown any as a writer.
Profile Image for Traci Thomas.
511 reviews9,255 followers
February 24, 2019
Some great stories in this book. Half follow one family, the other half follow their neighborhood. Black and brown and queer and poor and great. Kind of dark kind of fun. Really well done and accessible. Great use of language and slang. So good.
Profile Image for Bobbieshiann.
309 reviews88 followers
May 2, 2019
“You bring yourself wherever you go. You are the one thing you can never run out on”.
Have ever read a book that you finally get into and in the end, you don’t know how to review it?? Well that is me with the book LOT. It really gave me insight but also made think of how we receive others. Overall, I enjoyed the structure of the book. It focuses on a direct family but gives voices to their neighborhood as well. There is much power, strength, and survival in these short stories. Well worth the read.
Profile Image for Jenna Bookish.
181 reviews94 followers
September 3, 2019
The tone was very rambling and conversational, and the stories just didn't hold my interest.

Parts of it felt like a poor imitation of Junot Díaz's work. Overall, a flop for me.
Profile Image for Ana WJ.
65 reviews1,111 followers
March 30, 2022
Thoughts on TUBE-y.
Overall, good storytelling, just felt rather repetitive at times.
Can’t help imagining dogs urinating after repeated glances at the cover.
Profile Image for Heather.
295 reviews105 followers
March 11, 2019
**I received this book as part of a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.**

I enjoyed the stories in this book. About half of them were connected, and it was very interestingly done. They're all about coming of age, and coming out, while being a POC. I would like to read more about all the characters. Especially Nic. So, if anyone knows the author, tell him we need a whole book about Nic and his goings on! ;)
Profile Image for John Hatley.
1,153 reviews181 followers
December 21, 2020
This is a collection of stories, episodes, chapters, whatever I call them doesn’t really fit, that once I had started I couldn’t put down. They are tragic, sad, happy at one and the same time. They take place in a world as foreign to me as the moon, but it is a world populated with human beings, people with feelings, people who can love and hate and laugh and hurt and cry. It’s an amazing book.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,024 followers
November 26, 2019
My first read from the new Tournament of Books 2020 long list is a book recommended by a Houston-based previous podcast guest, Elizabeth. Each story in this book takes place in a different Houston neighborhood and includes all sorts of characters (and lots of drugs.) I was impressed by how quickly Bryan Washington can develop characters and give the reader deep insights into their lives.
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
Author 43 books548 followers
April 16, 2019
I am very much on the hunt for short stories by and about minority voices and this was perfect. I don’t know Houston but I feel like I do now. Inter-connected short stories make for a particularly satisfying collection. Every story here shines.
Profile Image for Ben.
Author 6 books411 followers
March 20, 2019
Gorgeous. Reminded me of Junot Díaz but without the straightguy bravado.
Profile Image for Darryl Suite.
464 reviews322 followers
May 11, 2019
That review is coming. Just you wait.
Here it is:

Lot is a kaleidoscopic and dizzying work of art. It is very reminiscent of Junot Diaz’s writing. And for that reason, I almost had no choice but to love it. But I’m here to say that Washington is doing his own thing, and it’s magical.

Lot tackles themes of family, poverty, homosexuality, fatherhood, unrequited love, community, and Houston. O Houston, O Houston. Washington’s description of Houston is so sticky and all-consuming, I felt like I was physically there. Like I was submerged into the bayou, intoxicated by the musicality of the overheard dialects, drunk off the rich food, eavesdropping on the locals; I could go on. Houston is hands down the central character of this collection. Each story title is named after some part of Houston’s landscape and/or landmarks. It’s just another way to remind us that this is a homage and love letter to Washington’s hometown.

Now let’s talk about actual characters. Many of the stories feature the same recurring family. We mostly focus on the younger son, but Washingston does provide much-appreciated insights into the other family members, giving them their own moments to shine. By having these stories sprinkled throughout the collection, not only does it feel like you’re checking in with old friends or neighbors, but once you discover the characters’ evolution and surprising direction, the impact hits ten times harder. Surprisingly, my favorite story ‘Waugh” does not involve this family, but damn does it hit the hardest. It’s one of those stories that is the perfect length, but I really wish was developed into a novel. Oof, “Waugh” was pure devastation. On the flipside, the last paragraph in “Wayside” sent a chill down my spine and a shockwave to my chest.

In conclusion, this collection succeeds at portraying characters who are their own worst enemies: stubborn, believing themselves to be unworthy of love, while physically and mentally wasting their lives away. Lot is sad, tragic, immersive, playful, inventive, frank, full of attitude, and raises the bar on evocative imagery...y’know: all of the things.

Profile Image for Doug.
1,896 reviews643 followers
May 14, 2020
3.5, rounded down.

Standard disclaimer: I don't read a lot of short stories and it's NOT a format I generally enjoy; no matter how accomplished the writer, there always seems to be a disparity in quality in even the most terrific collection. And so it is with THIS group of 13 stories, the odd numbered ones of which are interlinked, and the other 6 stand-alones, although all of them take place in (and are named after sections of) Houston. [Side note: the Chamber of Commerce is never gonna give any awards to Washington, since the picture of the city he paints is so bleak and dispiriting, I hope never to be stuck there!]

The interconnected stories, detailing the journey of a young Black/Hispanic we eventually learn is named Nic, and his family who run a shoddy restaurant, are the most successful, and I venture to say the book MIGHT have been better if these stories were presented as a novella, with the others set apart in a separate section.

But as with another gay-themed Texas set novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, I found it difficult to relate to any of the characters or their plights, or to fathom a lot of the 'Spanglish' patois. Everyone scrapes just to get by, with drugs, crime and joyless sex seeming to be the only featured activities. Washington's prose is spare and simple, but effective - it is just a world I find it hard to spend time in....
Profile Image for Matt Quann.
606 reviews375 followers
September 15, 2019
If there's one thing made clear by Bryan Washington's debut short story collection, Lot, it's that he's a big fan of Junot Diaz. Indeed, much of this collection seems inspired by Diaz's work: a recurrent narrator, bilingual dialogue, and a focus on persons of colour. Despite what, for me, seemed like pretty obvious inspiration, I was down to read similar stuff since I'm a pretty huge fan of Diaz. Unfortunately, Lot ended up being a fairly mixed bag for me.

The stories that revolve around our central narrator, Nic, and his family were the weakest of the collection. I failed to find my way into Washington's stories about Nic and was always a bit disappointed when he meandered back to that POV. For some reason the emotional beats always landed a bit flat in these stories. Since Nic's story of living in Houston, discovering that he's gay, and his family's dissolution forms over half the book, I really couldn't dig.

Fortunately, that's contrasted by some pretty strong stories that are connected only by being set in Houston. Some of this bunch really impressed me and sold me more on Washington's writing and storytelling ability than did his Nic stories. I kind of hoped that these stories might in turn influence Nic's story, but they never seemed to overlap.

So, a very middle-of-the-road collection for me. I've read some better short stories this year, and even though some of this shows promise, other bits straight-up didn't work for me. I was hoping this'd be more up my alley since the hype for this book was so heavy, but it failed to scratch my literary fiction itch. Pass.

[2.5 Stars]
Profile Image for Charles.
174 reviews
December 25, 2020
A mood, an atmosphere. Youthfulness meets a gritty reality – and survives to tell the tale. Or in this case, tales. The result is a lucid yet almost poetic take on a life perspective my friends and I have little in common with. Besides, Houston is a place I’ve never visited, and as a general rule stories set in the Southern U.S. provide this reader with a noticeable change of scenery, not to mention social conventions. I enjoyed the time I spent with Lot and will be on the lookout for more of Bryan Washington’s writing.
Profile Image for Conor Ahern.
655 reviews188 followers
May 1, 2020
Like "There, There" but with Houston instead of Oakland, and queer Latinx and Black people instead of Native folk, "Lot" is beautifully written and extremely poignant. It tells variations on the tribulations of poverty and being non-white in modern America, with the added twist that the protagonist is always (or almost always) a queer man.

These stories were relentless--brutal, violent, unhappy. And I couldn't stop listening, as uncomfortable as they often were. I will be evangelizing for this one and keeping an eye out for Washington's next release.
Profile Image for Aja Gabel.
Author 5 books220 followers
January 26, 2019
This book is as good as everyone says it is. Haunting and powerful.
Profile Image for Dwayne.
118 reviews109 followers
October 10, 2021
Washington is an obviously talented writer, and this was a collection I was really looking forward to reading. However, too many of these stories are either unmemorable or don't have much to say.
These are 13 queer, but very sad stories with a few being loosely interconnected. There's no joy to be found anywhere. Which is fine; life can be like that. But over the course of an entire book, the perpetual sadness wears thin. I wanted more.
The best story here, and quite possibly the longest, is "Waugh," and if more of the others were like that or "Fannin," this would be a good to great collection. Unfortunately, outside of those two, everything is either too depressing or too repetitive to have left a lasting impression with me.
Profile Image for Mark Kwesi.
45 reviews32 followers
July 14, 2020
I loved this so much. Extremely good writing. Bryan Washington is the king of first sentences.
Profile Image for Come Musica.
1,454 reviews342 followers
August 10, 2020
Uragano Harvey

Quest'opera è a metà tra il romanzo e una raccolta di racconti: le storie sono ambientate a Houston, prima e dopo l'uragano Harvey e puntano i loro riflettori su Nicolás, il figlio di una coppia mista (padre latino e madre di colore) che cerca di crescere, affrontando da una parte i pregiudizi, le realtà sociali ed economiche della comunità di immigrati in cui vive, dall'altra il confronto con il fratello Javi e la sorella Jan.

"E non ci vuole tanto a capire che da una parte esiste il mondo in cui stai tu, e dall’altra esistono le costellazioni che lo circondano, e non saprai mai cosa ti stai perdendo, se non alzi nemmeno gli occhi per guardare.
La figlia di Mamma l’ha abbandonata.
Suo figlio l’ha abbandonata.
Suo marito l’ha abbandonata.
Io come potrei."

Nic deve fare i conti anche con la scoperta della sua identità e l'accettazione del suo essere omosessuale. La fatica fatta per dichiararlo al fratello si rivela inutile: e Nic si sgretola come un bicchiere di cristallo scaraventato con violenza contro un muro.

Ma non si può sempre scappare, non si può avere paura di ciò che si è. Bisogna imparare a restare. Bisogna esercitarsi a trasformare quei "me" in "noi."

"Mi preme contro il suo petto, finché i nostri nasi non si spazzolano l’un l’altro.
Di nuovo?, faccio io.
No, mi fa Miguel.
Che ne dici di rimanere qui, mi fa. Mi cerca le braccia sul materasso. Incastra le sue dita nelle mie. Riesco a sentire me stesso nel suo fiato – anzi, non me. Noi."

In queste storie, Bryan Washington esplora le relazioni complicate nelle famiglie distrutte, le aspettative di mascolinità, il trattamento delle donne che sono considerate esseri inferiori, i lavori umili e pericolosi svolti dai ragazzi e dagli uomini che vivono in questi quartieri; e lo fa cercando il nocciolo di ciò che rende un insieme di persona una comunità, una famiglia, una vita.

Bryan Washington vuole far esercitare l'occhio del lettore a guardare oltre ciò che esso vuole vedere:

"Mi sono tranquillizzata. E calmata. Ho guardato dietro di me verso il tizio per strada, perché si sa, certe volte uno si immagina le cose. I tuoi occhi ti fanno vedere quello che vogliono, o qualunque cosa pensano dovresti vedere. Ti fanno vedere una famiglia felice quando non ci sono che corpi dentro una stanza. Ti fanno vedere un uomo per cui vale la pena cambiare tutta la tua vita, uno che ti lascerà con tre figli e un lotto mezzo ammuffito, ma visto che i tuoi occhi sono i tuoi occhi, e sai quel che sai, finché non ti viene addosso il treno tu non lo vedi."

"Sono già un bel pezzo dentro l’acqua quando inizio a sentire freddo, come una di quelle attrici bianche nei film. Non posso arrivare più lontano di così, rispetto a dove ho bisogno di stare.
O forse, chissà, sono solo abbastanza lontano da lui per poter riflettere davvero, e la sabbia è come fango sulle dita dei miei piedi, umide di plastica e bottiglie e granelli, ma ci affondo comunque. Finché non inizia a bruciare.
Prego per i miei morti nell’acqua.
E prego per Javi nell’acqua.
E prego per Jan nell’acqua.
E prego per Mamma nell’acqua.
E prego per mio padre nell’acqua.
E inizio a pregare per il ragazzo nel mio letto anche se in realtà è quel negro che dovrebbe pregare per me. O magari per la sua famiglia. Abbiamo tutti le nostre priorità. E vado avanti così, in piedi sul bagnasciuga, mormorando e affondando e ondeggiando, e ascolto l’acqua alle mie spalle, questo lieve ruggito, e poi un colpo sordo, come qualcosa che si avvicina. O forse sono io che mi sto avvicinando. Abbastanza vicino per fidarmi e concedergli una possibilità.
E, onestamente, mi chiedo come sia possibile scappare via da tutto ciò. Una volta, pensavo si potesse."

La scrittura resta potente, a forte impatto emotivo, molto evocativa e poetica, sebbene ci siano stati un paio di racconti, verso la fine, che ho trovato un po' pesanti. L’ultima storia mi ha strappato la quarta stella.
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