Bryan Washington's LOT, Houston, and Being Unsettled by Joy Preble

I don't know if there are books that have changed my mind exactly. I'm a solidly 'grey area' girl who sometimes wonders if her opinions should be more, not less, solid. (Okay, current exceptions are our present political situation and he who I shall not name, and also eggplant, which grosses me out in any form, a reaction that's been consistent since, well, forever.)

But books open my eyes on a regular basis, present me with places and lives and situations that are far beyond my personal scope, make me think and ponder and understand more deeply. I love when a book upends me. When it disturbs me, slaps me around a bit, leaves me unsettled, leaves me aware that as much as I know, I still don't know much at all about the business of life and living.

Right now as I type this, Bryan Washington's collection of short stories LOT, set right here in Houston where I live, is doing all that to me.

The stories in LOT have been a gut punch for me. They are set in Houston, even on blocks that I drive down regularly to and from work, but still they unsettle me with their raw depiction of lives and longing that are often quite different from my own. His unflinching view of people and families on the edge -- of hustlers and kitchen workers and hurricane survivors, of those on the fringe, those abandoned, those struggling--is going to stay with me for a very long time, possibly forever. 

Here's the thing: You can live in a city as vast as Houston and still not know all of it. Certainly, when you commute from the boring, bland 'burbs as I do, from my subdivision of matching garbage cans and people who often look a whole lotta the same, you need to be shook up. You need to see what you're not seeing on a regular basis, look harder at those people panhandling on the corner of Brazos near I-45 and more. 

Let me say that there's more to see in the 'burbs, too. I write about that a lot because it's something confronting me every day. There is pain up here and grief and craziness and people hanging on by their fingernails-- there are lost people and hatred and love and fear and okay, rabid conservative-ism, and all the rest. (If you want to see my sometimes comic but hearfelt takes on all that, please read THE SWEET DEAD LIFE and THE A-WORD, both from Soho Teen)

Anyway. LOT. I highly recommend it. I hope it upends you.
Back to reading.


  1. That is so true about not being able to know the entirety of your own city.


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