Bryan Washington on MEMORIAL, Houston, and What He’s Reading

We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. Bryan Washington, Houston literary superstar and author of Lot, returns with a new novel on October 27. It’s called Memorial, and it’s a touching and funny story about two young, gay Houston men: Mike, a Japanese American chef, and Benson, a Black day care teacher. Through their stories, Washington explores universal themes of family and what it means to be human—parent, child, lover, friend. The book is just sublime, and we couldn’t be happier for this Houston author. 

We’re extremely excited to host a special, virtual launch event for Bryan Washington and Memorial on October 26, and to offer signed, personalized copies to attendees. You can learn more about that event and register here. In the meantime, enjoy our Q&A with the author below.

Congratulations on Memorial, and on all your well-deserved success! Can you tell us a bit about your new book and its characters?

Thanks a lot for that. The novel's mostly about a queer couple figuring out what it means to be okay, together and apart. It's also about how three people define themselves when they're removed from their usual contexts.

Part of Memorial is set in Japan, and we know you traveled there a few years ago. Would you share about that experience?

Yeah—barring a global pandemic, I'm usually in Osaka once or twice a year. I have friends out there, and it's always a nice time.

The Houston food scene features prominently in both of your books. What do you think makes the food industry in our city so unique? 

Its diversity. And, maybe tangentially, the accessibility of high quality restaurants for a wide range of incomes. 

There aren't a lot of books about Houston, even though it's one of the largest, most diverse cities in the country. Why do you think that is?

American publishing is a little near-sighted when it comes to setting narratives in locales beyond the coasts. But I think that's changing. Albeit slowly. 

You've moved from short stories in Lot to a full novel in Memorial. What do you like or dislike about working in each form?

Writing is always a pretty horrible experience for me, and editing is where the joy surfaces. That held true for both books.

Pretend we've got a free day in Houston in pre-pandemic times. What should we do?

Visit the Rothko Chapel, walk through the Menil Collection, play cards in the park beside it, order one of everything on the menu at Tan Tan, dance it off in Montrose, grab a nightcap at Fufu Cafe. 

We loved this book, so we have to ask: Are there any other "gay slacker dramedies” we should be reading?

It isn't queer but I really adore Rachel Khong's Goodbye Vitamin.  

Can you recommend some of your favorite books by Black authors and queer authors?

Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh, Luster by Raven Leilani, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett, Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory, and Everything is Awful and You're a Terrible Person by Daniel Zomparelli are all really lovely. 

Can you share anything about what's next for you? 

Not really, but I'm working on a few things. We'll see if any of them hold.