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A Must-Read Book Of 2021


O, the Oprah Magazine * BuzzFeed * Cosmopolitan * The Millions * Electric Literature *Vanity Fair * The Advocate * Harpers Bazaar * Goodreads * Lambda Literary * Gay Times * Literary Hub * Vol. 1 Brooklyn * Kirkus Reviews * Passport Magazine * LGBTQ Reads * Foglifter Journal * The Bay Area Reporter * Paperback Paris * Debutiful * Book Riot



—Vanity Fair



—Shelf Awareness, starred review



—Fiction Writers Review



—Gay Times






—The Bay Area Reporter



—New York Journal of Books

It is 2015, weeks after the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, and all Sebastian Mote wants is to settle down. A high school art history teacher, he envies his queer students and their freedom to live openly the youth he lost to fear and shame. When he runs into his childhood friend Oscar Burnham at a wedding in Washington, D.C., he can’t help but see it as a second chance. Now thirty-five, the men haven’t seen each other in more than a decade. But Oscar has no interest in their shared history, nor in the sense of belonging Sebastian craves. Instead, he’s outraged by what he sees as the death of gay culture: bars overrun with bachelorette parties, friends cou­pling off and having babies. For Oscar, confor­mity isn’t peace, it’s surrender.

While Oscar and Sebastian struggle to find their place in a rapidly changing world, each is drawn into a cross-generational friendship that treads the line between envy and obsession: Se­bastian with one of his students, Oscar with an older icon of the AIDS era. And as they collide again and again, both men must reckon not just with one another but with themselves.


Provocative, moving, and rich with sharply drawn characters, Let's Get Back to the Party introduces an exciting and contemporary new talent.


“A stirring ode to the many faces of queerness . . . An intimate saga that brims with necessary conversations about cultural identity.”

—O, the Oprah Magazine



“Zak Salih’s Let's Get Back to the Party is a miracle of a book: a love letter to queer friendship and queer love in a particular moment in time that also, in its sparkling prose and exquisite storytelling, announces the arrival of a major talent.”

Nick White, author of How to Survive a Summer and Sweet & Low



“A searching, incisive debut novel . . . Let's Get Back to the Party is as rich in feeling and compelling in its storytelling as it is acute in its analysis. This gripping and thoughtful novel asks urgent questions about what it means to be a gay man in contemporary American culture.”

—Shelf Awareness, starred review



“A book for everyone who both craves and fears intimacy.”

—Harpers Bazaar



“This book will take its place among some of my favorite books of the genre . . . Read it because you like Sally Rooney. I think it’s a fair comparison.”

—Boswell Bookstore



“A gorgeous, raw, tender, trenchant novel about men figuring out how to live. At once gimlet-eyed and generous to his wonderfully drawn characters—fallible, lovable, and endlessly real—Salih paints a vivid portrait of the paradoxes of queer life in contemporary America, his characters navigating love and friendship in communities shaped both by freedom and fear, and by trauma that is both collective and individual. This is a stellar debut from a huge talent.”

—Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State



“A gorgeously written meditation on being a gay man in America now . . . Salih offers a cleareyed exploration of the sometimes fine line between friendship and romance, and how past slights can rear their heads in the most unexpected ways. . . A raw and captivating debut.”




“Zak Salih's debut novel powerfully and broadly explores [queer] friendships—the joys and tensions that exist within them, and the lines between platonic and romantic that can blur to the point of disappearance—celebrating the ways in which they help define us. . . Throughout the novel, Salih deftly captures the pervasive, intangible melancholy that can color experiences of detachment and isolation, writing movingly of the relationships—friendships and otherwise—that can bring us back from these moments. Let's Get Back to the Party reminds us how we fight to keep going in spite of it all."

—Lambda Literary



“An interrogation of modern queer culture and the dubious tenets of adulthood . . . Salih constructs his protagonists in careful layers, ultimately rendering them so complete that their desires and neuroses burrow into you. The emotional investment that readers will feel for Sebastian and Oscar will be enough to keep them hooked until the very end of this complex, character-driven story.”

—Paperback Paris



“The character excavations are finely wrought, and follow the childhood friends, reconnected in their thirties, as they, respectively, lust after a teenage student, and reluctantly yearn for something more stable than app-facilitated hookups.”

—Vanity Fair



“With an artist's eye for beauty and an art historian’s for detail, Zak Salih excavates the lives of his characters and leaves no stone unturned to ask questions about what it means to be a queer individual, to be a queer community, to be queer alone and with others. Let's Get Back to the Party is a book for those of us who simultaneously adore and abhor the pains and ecstasies of social closeness—which is to say it's a book for us now, us all.”

—Matt Ortile, author of The Groom Will Keep His Name



“An insightful novel about what it means to be a gay man in a rapidly-changing America.”

—Electric Literature



“The shifting landscape for gay men in America animates Salih’s heartfelt debut . . . The party may be changing, but reasons for celebration remain, as evidenced by Salih’s passionate evocation.”

—Publishers Weekly



“A gay novel for our time, the gay novel of 2021.”

—Unabridged Bookstore

“A thoughtful meditation on the evolving landscape of gay male life in America.”

—The Millions



“With gorgeous, searching prose, Zak Salih looks beyond the gay culture wars to find the fractured souls within—and locates something deep and true and universal. This exceptional debut signals the arrival of a compelling new fictional voice.”

—Louis Bayard, author of Courting Mr. Lincoln

“A wide-ranging and generational take on societal change.”

—Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“One of the most provocative and nuanced explorations of contemporary gay life to be published in the last few years.”

—Passport Magazine

“There’s a deep tension between [Sebastian and Oscar] that’s sexual but also political: Neither can entirely stomach the life the other has chosen. But to Salih’s credit, the narrators’ personalities don’t fall into tidy moral demarcations . . . An insightful examination of two of the many ways gay men present themselves in contemporary America.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Salih’s contemporary cross-generational exploration of Millennial queer life is entrancing . . . a brave, layered take on sexuality and identity.”

—Gay Times



“[A] striking literary debut . . . [with] polished emotive prose.”

—The Bay Area Reporter

“Salih has created four vivid and compelling characters and shined a spotlight on the complexities of modern gay life, touching on issues of identity, loneliness, selfishness, and the need for love and companionship.”

—The Gay & Lesbian Review




—New York Journal of Books

“The lives of thirty-somethings Sebastian and Oscar illustrate the widely varied experiences surrounding what it means to be a gay man in contemporary America . . . Their parallel narratives paint evocative and emotional accounts of two men trying to find their places in a rapidly changing world.”

—Shepherd Express



“The outpouring of praise and attention for this emotionally exacting novel is well-deserved. Not only because of the book’s raw, brilliant prose and the undertow of its storytelling—subtle yet forceful—but also because of the way the author deals with issues of representation. Salih refuses to sanitize what it means to be queer and to be human . . . Salih allows [his characters] to be human first and queer second.”

—Fiction Writers Review


“Alternating chapters from Sebastian and Oscar’s points of view, Let's Get Back to the Party recounts their mirrored struggles with generational envy, cultural identity, the traumas of history, and, ultimately, each other.”

—LGBTQ Reads

Let's Get Back to the Party is an ode to the past and present. Salih’s contemporary cross-generational exploration of Millennial queer life is entrancing . . . a brave, layered take on sexuality and identity.”


“Poignant and poetic . . . Readers will find a compelling exploration of the experiences of queer people from different generations as two modern-day gay men figure out whether they want to conform to traditional views of relationships and marriage or break free entirely.”


Let's Get Back to the Party is a generous, incisive, richly drawn novel about our universal quest for connection across difference. Through brilliantly braided perspectives and a will-they/won’t-they/should-they love story that will keep you turning the pages, Salih’s strong debut captures the drama and wonder of our contemporary moment in a voice leavened with humor and heart.” 

—John Glynn, author of Out East: Memoir of a Montauk Summer

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