Book review: A Love Like Blood, by Victor Yates

Yates, Victor. A Love like Blood. Los Angeles: Hillmont Press, c2015. ix, 189 p. Paperback. ISBN 978-0-692-55331-2.

This difficult first novel is well worth the effort it requires.  The African American author is a graduate of the Otis School of Art & Design in Los Angeles and the recipient of numerous prizes and awards.  He was born in Jacksonville, Florida and now lives in L.A.

Carsten Tynes, the narrator, is half Somali and half Cuban.  His mother has disappeared, supposedly deported (unusual for a Cuban since the Revolution).  Carsten, 17 years old, lives with his Somali father and two brothers.  His father is violent and rabidly homophobic.  Carsten and his brothers were beaten severely all their lives, just as his father was.  Carsten gets it worse because he is gay and is in love with his hunky blond neighbor Brett.  This novel is mostly about Carsten’s relationship with his father.

Photography is his life, as it was for his grandfather and his father.  That is what kept them together until the end.  At times, the novel verges into nearly stream of consciousness, and it also jumps back and forth chronologically.  It ends in an orgy of violence when Carsten, Brett and Carsten’s father are attacked by gunmen in an abandoned camera store after Carsten steals a plate-full of food.  He had come out to his father and was kicked out of their home.  He had been hungry!

Characters are realistic and so is the dialogue.  The author is a promising writer, so we can hope for future works worthy of note.  Recommended for collections of modern gay fiction, especially by African Americans, and also for readers interested in photography, which is a major theme of the work.

James Doig Anderson
Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science, Rutgers University

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