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A Love Like Blood Paperback – November 12, 2015
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"For a first novel, I am impressed. This piece of literary fiction ismoving and powerful. It gives the reader a glimpse into life under thestrict rule of an abusive father, and how a child's loyalty is stretched beyond breaking point." - Boy Meets Boy Reviews
About the Author
Victor Yates was raised in Jacksonville, Florida andnow lives in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in Windy City Times,Edge, andThe Voice. His first novel, A Love Like Blood, won the2016 Lambda Literary Award for Debut Fiction. As a graduate of the CreativeWriting program at Otis College, he isthe recipient of an Ahmanson Foundation grant. He is the winner of theElmaStuckey Writing Award (1st place in poetry) at Morehouse College. Hereceivedan Oprah Winfrey Scholarship and appeared on Oprah's SurpriseSpectacular show.Two of his poems were included in the anthology, For Colored Boys, which wasedited by Keith Boykin. The book won the American Library Association'sStonewall Book Award. Also, he has taught writing workshops at theUniversityof Southern California, Job Corps, Whaley Middle School, Bright StarSecondary Charter Academy, Camp Hollywood Heart, and Models of Pride.
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Yates tells the story of a young teen struggling with coming out while living with an abusive father. The imagery Yates' creates is vivid.
This book will speak to many young men struggling to come out to their families.
I highly recommend this novel.
This was one of the best debuts I have read, and Victor Yates’ Lammy for best debut was well deserved. It was brave, unique and artistic in a story that challenged, at times confused, and ultimately moved me.
There are a number of things I applaud. I commend its diversity, in terms of cultural and racial as well as sexual. I especially enjoyed learning about Somali life and customs. I liked the setting - the late 90’s, and while I’m not familiar with Detroit, I am with the Chicago seen in the flashbacks. And I appreciated that this went beyond an m/m romance, including it but also telling a broader story that was more compelling, complicated, emotionally layered, and at times dark and disturbing.
The latter came mostly from the subject matter, and Yates skillfully interwove that with the character development. He bravely tackled childhood parental physical abuse, homophobia and hate crimes, which made it uncomfortable to read at times. I found it was psychologically true in how he developed the characters, how both abusers and victims think and behave, from their anger and guilt to flattening their feelings and even continuing the violence. While I saw a few hiccups along the way (like the ending), it made for some poignant scenes, like the one in the market, where a Somali proverb appeared on a sign, then after an outburst it was turned against the proud Somali, yet homophobic, father: “Get to know me before you reject me.”
To present all this, Yates had an interesting poetic style - observant, descriptive, and unique - which made it a tough read, but rewarding. Frankly, I often struggle reading poetry because I tend to need things spelled out for me, instead of having a picture painted or underlying meaning alluded to by symbolism and similes. But once I do see it, it is that much more pleasing. That was true here, too. While it still made for some confusing moments, I marveled at Yate’s eye and gift of the word, especially in framing difficult subjects. And then later in the story I read this saying that made sense of it: “The brave interested in speaking Somali also have to understand poetry. Allusion, proverbs, and rhyme pepper the language,” as it did in this story.
Here’s an example, of a passage I found insightful:
“Given distance, I realize telling the truth is like taking a picture. Through the lens, the photographer has to find meaning, something necessary to share. Being behind a camera, helped me avoid telling my father I wanted to be with a man. It became easier dealing with what was in my camera lens, than what was in front of me in life. I was afraid. Fear was just as much a part of me as a scar. The shame I covered the scar with was a cocoon, and I became my fear...I don’t know how to define being a man. However, I do know I want to be a man who isn’t afraid to share who he is. There are all kinds of fear. Having to cross out an entire part of your life with a grease pencil, may be the worst kind.”
While maybe not for everyone, this and many more moments like this impressed me about this promising gifted author.
[Thanks to the author and Goodreads' MMRG Don't Buy My Love program for a free copy in exchange for an honest review]
I can't say enough good things about this book. This is not your typical contemporary gay fiction. It's highly literary, and for that reason it should appeal to a much wider audience. In my opinion, this is an absolute must-read. Although Carsten's sexuality is important to the story, and even though that is what it is generally about, this is much more to do with family and expectations and who Carsten is becoming. Readers might not share Carsten's specific cultural heritage or sexual orientation, but how he navigates both of these and the choices he makes as a result of his upbringing are things most readers can relate to.
The visuals are absolutely stunning. It is not so much that the scenes are described in accurate detail but that they are given life through Carsten's eyes. We're seeing what he wants us to, what his camera has captured and the way he wants to present it to us. I loved how even he is surprised by what he discovers at the end, as though the picture he thought he had is now revealed to be something else.
Carsten's vicious father is thoroughly unlikable, however, he isn't necessarily the villain despite his ongoing abuse of his sons. We catch glimpses of how Carsten's friend Brett views the situation as an outsider, and it's tempting to agree with him. Carsten won't allow it, however, revealing the details as though he's developing the film for us. Readers should be forewarned that there are scenes of violence; I found them to be more intense than graphic, but because of the sensitive nature of family abuse cycles, some readers may find it more difficult to read those parts.
Ultimately, this is far more about family, about where we come from and where we are going, than anything else. It's rich and detailed and absolutely gorgeous. I cannot wait to read more from Victor Yates, especially if this is the quality of writing we can expect.
**I received a copy for the purpose of providing an honest review**
One of my favorite passages was-Under every stone, a scorpion sleeps and under every police station roof, Black men bleed.
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