“A gorgeously written meditation on being a gay man in America now . . . A raw and captivating debut.” —BookPage
Recommended by: O, the Oprah Magazine * BuzzFeed * The Millions * Cosmopolitan * Electric Literature * Literary Hub * Harper's Bazaar * Lambda Literary * LGBTQ Reads * Passport magazine * Paperback Paris * Debutiful * Book Riot * The Bay Area Reporter * The Advocate
It is 2015, weeks after the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling. A high school art history teacher, Sebastian Mote envies his queer students and their freedom to live openly the youth he lost to fear and shame. When he runs into his childhood friend Oscar Burnham at a wedding in Washington, DC, he can’t help but see it as a second chance. Now thirty-five, the men haven’t seen each other in more than a decade. But Oscar has no interest in their shared history, nor in the sense of belonging Sebastian craves. Instead, he’s outraged by what he sees as the death of gay culture: bars overrun with bachelorette parties, friends coupling off and having babies. For Oscar, conformity isn’t peace, it’s surrender.
While Oscar and Sebastian struggle to find their place in a rapidly changing world, each is drawn into a cross-generational friendship that treads the line between envy and obsession: Sebastian with one of his students, Oscar with an older icon of the AIDS era. And as they collide again and again, both men must reckon not just with each other but with themselves. Provocative, moving, and rich with sharply drawn characters, Let’s Get Back to the Party introduces an exciting and contemporary new talent.
The shifting landscape for gay men in America animates Salih's heartfelt debut. In 2015, with gay marriage protected by the Supreme Court, 30-something Virginia high school art teacher Sebastian Mote wouldn't mind a life of domesticity, but he's just broken up with his boyfriend of three years. After the suicide of a gay student, Sebastian devotes himself to his students, especially 17-year-old Arthur, whose open sexuality Sebastian secretly envies while he works to make the school more LGBTQ inclusive. Sebastian hopes that luck has finally favored him when, at a wedding, he bumps into Oscar Burnham, a friend from childhood. But Oscar laments the end of a hedonistic lifestyle and complains that every gay man he knows is "a victim of marriage fever now." The closest Oscar comes to the life he pines for is in his friendship with Sean Stokes, an author in his 60s famous for books that document the abandon of previous decades. There's a varied cast, though many of the support players come across as generic: an uncle disapproving of him expressing his gay identity, the loving but conflicted mother, and so on. But Sebastian's and Oscar's twinned dilemmas add fascinating complexity to the goings on. The party may be changing, but reasons for celebration remain, as evidenced by Salih's passionate evocation.