James, an Asian college student, thought coming out of the closet would be his toughest task. What he couldn’t foresee, but experienced head on, was the discrimination inside Boston’s gay community. The road to love is never easy, especially for a geeky Asian inside a sea of white, round-eyed faces.
After months of failures, James catches the guy of his dreams, Stan, but can only hang on to him for a few precious months. Stan is a man who lives on the edge and goes through boyfriends as fast as he goes through clean socks. Once the relationship slides from lovers to friends, James begins dating a doctor who has it all – hot car, glamorous flat, money to burn – in order to make Stan jealous and lure him back. But as I said, the road to love is never easy, or what you expect.
A wonderful debut novel… I must confess that I’ve grown tired of coming out stories, but this is not your typical coming out story. It has true depth, grace, and vividly drawn characters that entice the reader into this beautifully crafted yarn. It delves into the racism that is rampant in the gay community, and also of one person’s struggle to assimilate. The emotions and concerns are genuine, and carry the reader along.
The first half of the story focused more on discrimination Asians experience within the gay community. For James, this leads to self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy, and then grows into self-hate. The second half deals more with relationships and the needs of partners with a relationship.
What struck me even more than the insightful observations was the superlative writing. Timothy Wang tells a simple yarn with an unrivaled voice. Wang writes with the refinement of a seasoned professional.
I did have two minor issues with this story. The first came when James, after complaining bitterly about the discrimination directed at him for being Asian, shows that he is equally prejudice against rice queens – older men dating young Asians. As a gentleman of some years, I found James’s age discrimination a bit distasteful and thoroughly hypocritical.
My second issue is that I felt the ending fizzled. Wang kept both the tension and my interest high until the last ten pages, and then I closed the book feeling slightly let down. I’m not sure I would have preferred a different ending, but perhaps a bit more thought into what was gained and what was lost would have made the ending more satisfying.
Those two minor issues aside, I can highly recommend Slant.