“Lot: Stories” by Bryan Washington— A Collection of Houston Stories

Washington, Bryan. “Lot: Stories”, Riverhead Books, 2019.

A Collection of Houston Stories

Amos Lassen

I am really not much of a short story reader and the only ones that I read are those I teach and those I review. Yet I must admit that I was completely taken in by this collection by Bryan Washington. He knows his Houston and he shares it with us and we see it in all of its glory and all of its underbelly. In fact, the Houston we have here is a microcosm of America. We have stories about the coming of age of a biracial son who is discovering his sexuality, a young woman having an affair detonates across an apartment complex, a ragtag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, hurricane survivors, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing and a reluctant legendary creature. The stories are witty and well-written and they show what makes a community, a family, and a life. Actually these stories explore trust and love in ways we have not seen before. The characters are very real (or as real as we want to make them) and  they give us a look at the working class of Houston. Even more important is that we develop empath with the characters as we read.

The book grabs us and does not let go and even when we have read the last story, it all stays with us for quite a while. We need to think a bit more about what we read and I am still thinking about it some two weeks after I finished reading it.

Bryan Washington writes about the many experiences of families and friends in the margins of Houston-area society An unnamed narrator takes us through a collection of stories that are interconnected.  Our narrator is the biracial guy I mentioned earlier and he is still getting through adolescence and dealing with his sexuality. We also meet unfaithful spouses, scorned lovers, drug dealers, sex workers and we see the effects of gentrification on the working class who do not have the finances or the means to challenge what is happening. This group is what is known as the invisible population. There is a rawness, a vividness and an intensity to the stories but there is also a poignancy in writer Washington’s style.

The characters are people that we know and people we come into contact on a daily business. Their names and locations might be different but we know them and we watch them tell the truth about how they feel and what keeps them going. Washington has no agenda in these stories other than to give us a good read and we gain something by reading about his character and their sexual awakening and identification, gentrification and its victims, and the power of family to both keep us and lose us.

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