Bryan Washington (Family Meal) joins us on a special episode dedicated to the Best Fiction of 2023.
Washington is a writer from Houston whose debut novel, Memorial, was one of the Best Fiction Books of 2020, as well as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction. He is the author of the short story collection Lot, a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree, and an assistant professor in creative writing at Rice University. Here’s a bit from our starred review of his poignant sophomore novel, Family Meal:
“Food, family, and sex drive this intimate novel about the difficult search for true connections.
“After the tragic death of his boyfriend, Cam returns to Houston adrift, struggling with drug and sex addiction, and often seeing Kai’s ghost. He gets a job as a bartender and finds himself pulled into the life and family of TJ, his former best friend, from whom he had drifted….Co-workers aren’t just colleagues, but members of a family focused on achieving something together, whether that’s hanging on to one of the last gay bars in a fast-gentrifying Houston neighborhood or nourishing body and soul in TJ’s family bakery….
“Washington brilliantly commits to his style and preoccupations in a novel about the often winding journey to family.”
Washington shares some highlights from book tour in the U.K. and Japan, and notes the differences between touring Family Meal and his debut novel, Memorial, which published in October 2020. We then discuss Houston neighborhoods Montrose and the Heights; how every place is a palimpsest; how the characters in Family Meal make a practice of revising themselves and their relationships to one another; how families form themselves within communities; the questions that arise about how to live a queer life in the absence of an abudance of queer role models; how characters accept care from one another; quotation marks; and much more.
Then fiction editor Laurie Muchnick tells us what it took to determine the year’s top 100 titles.
Absolution by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link (Random House)
Witnessby Jamel Brinkley (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Good Women by Halle Hill (Hub City Press)
A New Race of Men from Heaven by Chaitali Sen (Sarabande)
Games and Rituals by Katherine Heiny (Knopf)
An Island Princess Starts a Scandal by Adriana Herrera (Canary Street Press)
Ana María and the Foxby Liana De la Rosa (Berkley)
Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Pantheon)
Marry Me by Midnight by Felicia Grossman (Forever)
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (Grove)
Same Bed Different Dreams by Ed Park (Random House)
The End of Drum-Time by Hannah Pylväinen (Henry Holt)
THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS:
What Meets the Eye by Riesa Dow
Dancing Into the Light: An Arab-American Girlhood in the Middle East by Kathryn K. Abdul-Baki
The Timebound Twins by Savannah Whitemarsh-Hoffmann
Street Smart Safety for Women: Your Guide to Defensive Living by Joy Farrow and Laura Frombach
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.