A FINALIST for the Booker Prize, the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the VCU/Cabell First Novelist Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, the NYPL Young Lions Award, and the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award
“A blistering coming of age story” —O: The Oprah Magazine
Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York Public Library, Vanity Fair, Elle, NPR, The Guardian, The Paris Review, Harper's Bazaar, Financial Times, Huffington Post, BBC, Shondaland, Barnes & Noble, Vulture, Thrillist, Vice, Self, Electric Literature, and Shelf Awareness
A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice.
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 defenses 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Brandon Taylor’s powerful, emotional debut is set at a prestigious Midwestern university where Wallace, a queer black graduate student with a secret history, tries uneasily to fit in with his white peers. But over the course of one summer weekend, several incidents—from suspected academic sabotage to a burgeoning romance with a volatile friend—force Wallace to question whether it’s even possible to escape his troubled upbringing. “Narrator Kevin R. Free absolutely brings the book to life,” Taylor tells Apple Books. “He found every nuance and every subtle shift in emotion or tone that I had in mind when writing the words. It was surreal and really moving to hear someone inhabit the story so completely and with such effortless skill.” Taylor’s tense plot gets into timely issues of race, trauma, and the hypocrisies of higher education, making Real Life a crucial addition to the contemporary campus novel.