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Brandon Taylor's Debut Novel "Real Life"

Matt Alvarez
Brandon Taylor talks race, loneliness, human connection and the perils of grad school.

Brandon Taylor's new novel "Real Life" is attracting a great deal of attention. The critically acclaimed book tells the story of a group of friends studying biochemistry at a large midwestern University — easily recognized as the University of Wisconsin. 

At the center of the novel is Wallace – a black, gay man from rural Alabama – who feels alone and out of place. Although he is surrounded by people, Wallace feels very much isolated. 

On this episode of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Brandon Taylor about his highly anticipated novel Real Life. In his work, Taylor mentions racism is a reoccurring theme. He believes he's transmitted parts of his own experiences with race, while living in Wisconsin, into his main character, Wallace. 

“I found that I was, for the very first time in my life, surrounded by white people who have never had a substantial interaction with a black person before,” said Taylor. “Who were suddenly behaving in ways that I can tell were mysterious, even to them.”

Taylor is the senior editor of Electric Literature's Recommended Reading and a staff writer at Literary Hub. His writing has received fellowships from Lambda Literary Foundation, Kimbilio Fiction, and the Tin House Summer Writer's Workshop.

He holds graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa, where he was an Iowa Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in fiction.


Brandon Taylor, author, senior editor of Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, staff writer at Literary Hub 

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Matthew was a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa