Based on the real-life work of queer researcher and activist Jan Gay, Justin Torres’ new novel is a transfixing and emotional examination of history. Blackouts follows a dying elderly man, Juan Gay, and his nameless, 20-something caretaker to explore what it means to be erased. Throughout, Torres draws on photographs, illustrations, and redacted passages from “Sex Variants: A Study in Homosexual Patterns,” a 1941 committee report whose authorship is attributed to psychiatrist George W. Henry but that originated as a compilation of queer stories collected by Jan. In doing so, Blackouts, a finalist for the 2023 National Book Award in fiction, illuminates the ways in which the lives and experiences of marginalized people have long been omitted from written records. —Megan McCluskey

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