Brandon Taylor and Paul Mendez: Real Life and Rainbow Milk

Fiction International Newest Podcast

“It was a cool evening in late summer when Wallace, his father dead for several weeks, decided that he would meet his friends at the pier after all.” – Brandon Taylor

“Jesse’s alarm went off at seven, but he’d barely slept. He was excited, if nervous; he’d been scared of London all his life but he was a man now and after a few months saving up, he was ready to do it. He’d found a hostel on the Internet, in Earl’s Court, for twelve pounds a night. He had three hundred pounds in his bank account and no responsibilities to anyone; he packed only what he absolutely needed – his best clothes, some under- wear, ten or so CDs, his Discman, the James Baldwin novel Another Country. He left his key and bible on his pillow” – Paul Mendez

Shortlisted for 2020 Booker Prize, Real Life is Brandon Taylor’s debut. It explores the life of Wallace, a Black queer PhD student in a white institution. The novel takes place over a weekend. Hauntingly intimate, it puts a spotlight on violence – physically, emotional and structurally. In doing so, it enables us to question (toxic) masculinity.

Rainbow Milk is an intersectional coming-of-age story, following nineteen-year-old Jesse McCarthy as he grapples with his racial and sexual identities against the backdrop of a Jehovah’s Witness upbringing and the legacies of the Windrush generation. It allows us to imagine what freedom may look like for Black queer people.

This episode is in search of tenderness for Black queer people. In this conversation, the writers speak about the place of location in their novels, how location is used as a literary device – a break from a past. It touches on the shame that is often experienced by Black queer people and how it influences the way that they date. The writers also touches on the pervasiveness of religion and how it adds to the self-loathing.

In many ways, this episode is a gathering of Black queer people around the world holding space for each other to live more fuller. It is a conversation that pulls at the heart strings.

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