Real Life

Real Life
Image source: Google

Rating: 4.4/5

Author: Brandon Taylor

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Publishing Date: 18th February, 2020

Language: English

Genre: Bildungsroman, Gay Fiction

ISBN-10: 0525538887

ISBN-13: 978-0525538882

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 336

Cost: Rs. 585 (Paperback), Rs. 407.99 (Kindle Edition), Rs. 1865 (Hardcover)


Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochemistry 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.

Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost.


Real Life tells the story of Wallace, a gay, Black man in graduate school at University of Wisconsin, Madison. As Wallace struggles to find his place while dealing with racial micro aggressions silently as a mechanism of survival from his white friends/professors/lab mates in his almost exclusively white campus. It’s a reminder that racism is even worse for those that are black and gay.

One of the most contemplative experts is:

“The most unfair part of it, Wallace thinks, is that when you tell white people that something is racist, they hold it up to the light and try to discern if you are telling the truth as if they can tell by the grain if something is racist or not, and they always trust their own judgment. It's unfair because white people have a vested interest in undermining racism, its amount, its intensity, its shape, and its effects. They are the fox in the henhouse.”

The author has incorporated various elements in the book like: Rape, Micro/Macro Aggressions, White woman supremacy, Sexual Exploration, Science.

Taylor tries to pass the complexities and struggles that a black and gay man experiences; the perils of graduate education, blackness in a predominantly white setting, loneliness, desire, trauma, need. Wallace, the man at the centre of this novel, is written with such flair and considerateness and multi-dimensional way.

Taylor's debut novel is strong when it focuses on the subtle dynamics of social interactions, as he writes:

“Better to imagine his friends happy than to see their unhappiness up close. And unhappy they certainly would be – that has been the lesson this weekend, hasn’t it? The misery of other people, the persistence of unhappiness, is perhaps all that connects them.”

Wallace believes these white contemporaries “have a vested interest in underestimating racism”; the depictions of the micro and macroaggressions he faces as he moves through a predominantly white world are figured with absolute honesty and bluntness.

The way the author has treated racial politics in the novel is very effective and forces you to think on the matter.

Milestones of the Book:

  • The book was selected by Barbara VanDenburgh, as one of 9 LGBTQ books to read for Pride Month.
  • In Kirkus Reviews, Laurie Muchnick selected it as one of six "queer debuts to read during Pride Month".
  • The novel is shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize.

About the Author:

Brandon Taylor is the senior editor of Electric Literature's Recommended Reading and a staff writer at Literary Hub. His writing has received fellowships from Lambda Literary Foundation, Kimbilio Fiction, and the Tin House Summer Writer's 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.

His work has appeared in Guernica, American Short Fiction, Gulf Coast, Buzzfeed Reader, O, The Oprah Magazine, Gay Mag, The New Yorker online, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. He is the senior editor of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading and a staff writer at Lit Hub.