This is a beautifully wrought novel. Wallace is a young gay black man in a research position on a university campus, surrounded by ‘benign’ white colleagues, who, whilst being supportive, are also capable of casual prejudice and privilege. This behaviour can be stifling, and life is not easy for him. He carries out his research at the same time as he struggles with the difficult act of falling in love. It is not an easy journey.
I read the book twice, and tried to come up with an image that might capture the soul of the book. I hit upon the idea of snakes and ladders, a simple children’s game that is supposed to be a metaphor for real life: a role of the dice and a bit of luck can be the thing that decides whether you will succeed or fail.
In America, of course, the game is called ‘chutes and ladders’, so I tried to make the design something that could mean both. A bit of my culture, and a bit of Brandon’s.
I am so glad that I got this book to bind. As a gay man I identified with Wallace’s journey, as, no matter how privileged we are, we all face prejudice from many quarters. I cried at the end (always the measure of a good story), and hope that many will not only enjoy but also be inspired by the story of our lovely Wallace.