16 Jan Why you have to read Real Life by Brandon Taylor: A Review
Another notch on the TBR list! One way to catch my attention is to compare a book to Hanya Yanigihara. Her writing is near perfection and a Booker shortlist also helps the punt. I want to read this because I want a book to take me on a journey and, boy, what a journey.
Disclaimer: I do have to add that this novel does have triggers of child abuse (both physical and sexual), rape, and racial bullying.
About the Book:
Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defences while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.
There have been few books in my reading lifetime that have left me speechless and then internally questioning myself. In fact, this is pretty much how I measure a good read – how much it made me look inwards and re-evaluate how exactly I see myself and the world around me. Sure, this is a fiction novel, but it’s one that’s so accessible and with subtle depth that it made me wonder if it might actually be a literary novel in disguise. The content is both nuanced and deep — each nugget of information can be examined, drawn out for years of investigation, but Taylor writes it with such ease as if he’s simply telling you this story that’s so boring and achingly normal. It’s because of this approach that I was drawn in and then, when Taylor really sticks the knife in and twists, is when you suddenly realise that this book and the experiences of the protagonist, Wallace, are so mundanely normal. They are his everyday life and it’s heartbreaking to know this.
Real Life is the story of Wallace, a student at a university — a black, gay student at a predominantly white university. His friends are white and wealthy, while he is black and comes from a small, poor town. As you move through the days with Wallace, you notice how much shame, racism, sexism and bullying he faces in the name of white comfort.
This book talks of a shame that I haven’t ever experienced as a hetero, white female. But there were times where I saw myself in certain scenes around the table with Wallace, questioning my privilege, my whiteness and my straightness. Have I sat at a table and stayed silent when someone said something?
I was scared.
And Brandon Taylor does an incredible job of calling this out — he called it out in me — in the most kind and easy way; like a good friend telling you that you’ve “overstepped” a boundary. You merely accept this fact, nod, and then try and change because you care.
I fell in love with this book from chapter one. From the moment it boldly announced: “Yup, we’re doing this — let’s face demons and change”. Real Life is a must read, and if it hadn’t been for the staff at The Book Lounge hammering on about how brilliant this book was, then I don’t think I’d be sitting here raving about it.
5 out of 5 stars
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