The Center for Fiction hosted an unforgettable conversation with Bryan Washington, author of the story collection Lot and the novel Memorial, celebrating his latest novel, Family Meal. The novel follows Cam, moving back to his hometown of Houston, Texas after the death of his lover—a gripping and profound story about love, grief, and built families, with deep social and cultural insights about race and queer identity. Poet and novelist Ocean Vuong (Time Is a Mother, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous) joined Washington to discuss writing along intersecting identities and the raw vulnerability inherent in their work. The conversation was followed by an extended Q&A, during which audience members had the opportunity to join the discussion.
By Bryan Washington
Published by Riverhead
Cam is living in Los Angeles and falling apart after the love of his life has died. Kai’s ghost won’t leave Cam alone; his spectral visits wild, tender, and unexpected. When Cam returns to his hometown of Houston, he crashes back into the orbit of his former best friend, TJ, and TJ’s family bakery. TJ’s not sure how to navigate this changed Cam, impenetrably cool and self-destructing, or their charged estrangement. Can they find a way past all that has been said – and left unsaid – to save each other? Could they find a way back to being okay again, or maybe for the first time?
When secrets and wounds become so insurmountable that they devour us from within, hope and sustenance and friendship can come from the most unlikely source. Spanning Los Angeles, Houston, and Osaka, Family Meal is a story about how the people who know us the longest can hurt us the most, but how they also set the standard for love. With his signature generosity and eye for food, sex, love, and the moments that make us the most human, Bryan Washington returns with a brilliant new novel.
Bryan Washington is the author of the story collection Lot and the novel Memorial. He is also the winner of a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award, a New York Public Library Young Lions Award, an Ernest J. Gaines Award, an International Dylan Thomas Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and was a finalist for the James Tait Black Prize, the Joyce Carol Oates Prize, a PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize finalist, a National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize finalist, and the recipient of an O. Henry Award. He is a columnist for the New York Times magazine and his fiction has appeared in the New Yorker and The Best American Short Stories. He divides his time between Houston and Osaka.
Photo Credit: Louis Do
Ocean Vuong is the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collections Night Sky with Exit Wounds and Time is a Mother, as well as the New York Times bestselling novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. A recipient of the 2019 MacArthur “Genius” Grant, he is also the winner of the Whiting Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His writings have been featured in the Atlantic, Harper’s magazine, the Nation, the New Republic, the New Yorker, and the New York Times. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Photo Credit: Tom Hines