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Memorial

A GMA Book Club Pick (A Novel)

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Paperback
$17.00 US
5.08"W x 7.91"H x 0.96"D   (12.9 x 20.1 x 2.4 cm) | 10 oz (289 g) | 24 per carton
On sale Oct 26, 2021 | 384 Pages | 978-0-593-08728-2
| Grades AP/IB
Sales rights: US, Canada, Open Mkt
NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK


Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, O, the Oprah Magazine, Esquire, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, Refinery29, Real Simple, Kirkus Reviews, Electric Literature, and Lit Hub

“A masterpiece. —NPR

“No other novel this year captures so gracefully the full palette of America.The Washington Post

“Wryly funny, gently devastating.” —Entertainment Weekly

A funny and profound story about family in all its strange forms, joyful and hard-won vulnerability, becoming who you're supposed to be, and the limits of love.
 
Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson's a Black day care teacher, and they've been together for a few years—good years—but now they're not sure why they're still a couple. There's the sex, sure, and the meals Mike cooks for Benson, and, well, they love each other.

But when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit, Mike picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye. In Japan he undergoes an extraordinary transformation, discovering the truth about his family and his past. Back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted. Without Mike's immediate pull, Benson begins to push outwards, realizing he might just know what he wants out of life and have the goods to get it.

Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they've ever known. And just maybe they'll all be okay in the end.

1.

Mike’s taking off for Osaka, but his mother’s flying into Houston.
           
Just for a few weeks, he says.
           
Or maybe a couple of months, he says. But I need to go.
           
The first thing I think is: fuck.

The second’s that we don’t have the money for this.

Then, it occurs to me that we don’t have any savings at all. But Mike’s always been good about finances, always cool about separating his checks. It’s something I’d always taken for granted about him.
 
Now, he’s saying that he wants to find his father. The man’s gotten sick. Mike wants to catch him before he goes. And I’m on the sofa, half-listening, half charging my phone.
           
You haven’t seen your mom in years, I say. She’s coming for you. I’ve never met her.
           
I say, You don’t even fucking like your dad.
           
True, says Mike. But I already bought the ticket.
           
And Ma will be here when I’m back, says Mike. You’re great company. She’ll live.
           
He’s cracking eggs by the stove, slipping yolks into a pair of pans. After they’ve settled, he salts them, drizzling mayonnaise with a few sprigs of oregano. Mike used to have this thing about sriracha, he’d pull a hernia whenever I reached for it, but now he squeezes a faded bottle over my omelette, rubbing it in with the spatula.
           
I don’t ask where he’ll stay in Japan. I don’t ask who he’s staying with. I don’t ask where his mother will sleep here, in our one bedroom apartment, or exactly what that arrangement will look like. The thing about a moving train is that, sometimes, you can catch it. Some of the kids I work with, that’s how their families make it into this country. If you fall, you’re dead. If you’re too slow, you’re dead. But if you get a running start, it’s never entirely gone.
           
So I don’t flip the coffee table. Or one of our chairs. I don’t key his car or ram it straight through the living room. After the black eye, we stopped putting our hands on each other -- we’d both figured, silently, it was the least we could do.

Today, what I do is smile.

I thank Mike for letting me know.

I ask him when he’s leaving, and I know that’s my mistake. I’m already reaching to toss my charger before he says it, tomorrow.
 
*
                                                           
We’ve been fine. Thank you for asking.
 
*
                                                                       
Our relationship is, what, four years old? But that depends on how you count. We haven’t been to a party in months, and when we did go to parties, at first, no one knew we were fucking. Mike just stood to the side while whatever white girl talked her way into my space, then he’d reach up over my shoulder to slip a finger into my beer.

Or he’d sneeze, stretch, and wipe his nose with my shirt sleeve.

Or he’d fondle my wallet, slowly, patting it back into place.

Once, at a dinner, right under the table, he held court with a hand in my lap. Running his thumb over the crotch. Every now and again, someone would look and you could tell when they finally saw. They’d straightened their backs. Smile a little too wide. Then Mike would ask what was wrong, and they’d promise it was nothing, and he’d go right back to cheesing, never once nodding my way.
 
We knew how we looked. And how we didn’t look. But one night, a few weeks back, at a bar crawl for Mike’s job, all it took was a glance at us. He works at a coffee shop in Montrose. It’s this fusion thing where they butcher rice bowls and eggrolls -- although, really, it’s Mexican food, since unless your name is Mike that’s who’s cooking.

They’d been open for a year. This was their anniversary celebration. Mike volunteered us to help for an hour, flipping tortillas on a burner by the DJ.

I felt miserable. Mike felt miserable. Everyone who passed us wore this look that said, Mm. They touched our shoulders. Asked how long we’d been together. Wondered where we’d met, how we’d managed during Harvey, and the music was too fucking loud so Mike and I just sort of shrugged.
 
*
 
I don’t say shit on our way to the airport to pick up his mother, and I don’t say shit when Mike parks the car. IAH sits outside of Houston’s beltways, but there’s always steady traffic lining the highway. When Mike pulls up to Arrivals, he takes out the keys, and a line shimmers behind us, this tiny constellation of travelers.
 
Mike’s got this mustache now. It wavers over his face. He usually clips all of that off, and now I think he looks like a caricature of himself. We sit beside the terminal, and we can’t have the most fucked up situation here, but still. You have to wonder.

I wonder.

I wonder if he wonders.

We haven’t been good at apologizing lately. Now would be a nice time.

The airport sees about 111,500 visitors a day, and here we are, two of its most ridiculous.

Hey, says Mike.

He sighs. Hands me the keys. Says he’ll be right back with his mother.

If you leave us stranded in the parking lot, says Mike, we’ll probably find you.
 
*
 
It took all of two dates for him to bring up Race. We’d gone to an Irish bar tucked behind Hyde Park. Everyone else on the patio was white. I’d gotten a little drunk, and when I told Mike he was slightly shorter than optimal, he clicked his tongue, like, what took you so long.
           
What if I told you you’re too polite, said Mike.
           
Fine, I said.
           
Or that you’re so well-spoken.

I get it. Sorry.
           
Don’t be sorry, said Mike, and then he boxed my shoulder.

It was the first time we’d touched that night. The bartender glanced our way, blinking.
           
I just hope you see me as a fully realized human being, said Mike. Beyond the obvious sex appeal.
           
Shut up, I said. 

Seriously, said Mike, no bullshit.

Me Mifune, he said, you Yasuke.

Stop it, I said.
           
Or maybe we’re just fucking Bonnie and Clyde, he said.
 
*
 
Three different cops peek in the car while Mike’s in baggage claim. I smile at the first two. I frown at the third. The last guy taps the window, like, What the fuck are you waiting for, and when I point towards the airport’s entrance all he does is frown.
 
Then I spot them on their way out. The first thing I think is that they look like family. Mike’s mother is hunched, just a little bit, and he’s rolling her suitcase behind her. For a while, they saw each other annually she’d fly down just to visit, but the past few years have been rocky. The visits stopped once I moved in with Mike.

The least I can do is pop the trunk. I’d like to be the guy who doesn’t, but I’m not.
Mike helps his mother adjust the backseat as she gets in, and she doesn’t even look at me. Her hair’s in a bun. She’s got on this bright blue windbreaker, with a sickness mask, and the faintest trace of make-up.
           
Ma, says Mike, you hungry?
           
She mumbles something in Japanese. Shrugs.
           
Ma, says Mike.
           
He glances at me. Asks again. Then he switches over, too.

She says something, and then he says something, and then another guy directing traffic walks up to my window. He’s Latino, husky in his vest. Shaved head like he’s in the Army. He mouths at us through the glass, and I let the window down, and he asks if anything’s wrong.

I tell him we’re moving.
           
Then move, says this man.
           
The next words leave my mouth before I can taste them. It’s a little like gravity. I say, Okay, motherfucker, we’re gone.
           
And the Latino guy just frowns at me. Before he says anything else, there’s a bout of honking behind us. He looks at me again, and then he wanders away, scratching at his chest, wincing back at our car.
 
When I roll the window up, Mike’s staring. His mother is, too. She says something, shaking her head, and I pull the car into traffic.

I turn on the radio, and it’s Meek Mill.

I flip the channel, and it’s Migos.

I turn the damn thing off. Eventually we’re on the highway.

All of a sudden, we’re just one more soap opera among way too many, but that’s when Mike’s mother laughs, shaking her head.

She says something in Japanese.

Mike thumps the glove compartment, says, Ma.

*

My parents pretend I’m not gay. It’s easier for them than it sounds. My father lives in Katy, just west of Houston, and my mother stayed in Bellaire, even after she remarried. Before that, we took most of our family dinners downtown. My father was a meteorologist. It was a status thing. He’d pick my sister and my mother and me up from the house, ferrying us up I-45 just to eat with his co-workers, and he always ordered our table the largest dish on the menu—basted pigs spilling from platters, pounds of steamed crab sizzling over bok choi—and he called this Work, because he was always Working.

A question he used to ask us was, How many niggas do you see out here telling the weather?
 
My mother never debated him or cussed him out or anything like that. She’d repeat exactly what he said. Inflect his voice. That was her thing. She’d make him sound important, like some kind of boss, but my father’s a little man, and her tactics did exactly what you’d think they might do.
           
Big job today, she’d say, in the car, stuck on the 10.
           
This forecast’s impressive, she’d say, moments after my father shattered a wine glass on the kitchen wall.
           
I swear it’s the last one, she’d say, looking him dead in the eyes, as he floundered, drunk, grabbing at her knees, swearing that he’d never touch another single beer.
 
Eventually, she left. Lydia went with our mother, switching high schools. I stayed in the suburbs, at my old junior high, and my father kept drinking. He lived off his savings once he got fired from the station for being wasted on-air. Sometimes, he’d sub high school science classes, but he mostly stayed on the sofa, booing at the hourly prognoses from KHOU.

Occasionally, in blips of sobriety, I’d come home to him grading papers. Some kid had called precipitation anticipation. Another kid, instead of defining cumulus clouds, drew little fluffs all over the page. One time my father laid three tests on an already too cluttered end table, all with identical handwriting, and only the names changed. 

He waved them at me, asked why everything had to be so fucking hard.
 
*
 
A few months in, Mike said we could be whatever we wanted to be. Whatever that looked like.

I’m so easy, he said.
           
I’m not, I told him.
           
You will be, he said. Just give me a little time.
 
*
 
It’s past midnight when we pull onto our block. Most of the lights are out. Some kids are huddled by the curb, smoking pot, fucking around with firecrackers.
When a pop explodes behind us, the kids take off. That’s their latest thing. Mike’s mother doesn’t even flinch.

Ma, says Mike, this is home.
 
We live in the Third Ward, a historically black part of Houston. Our apartment’s entirely too large. It doesn’t make any sense. At one point, the neighborhood had money, but then crack happened and the money took off, and occasionally you’ll hear gunshots or fistfights or motherfuckers driving way too fast. But the block has recently been invaded by fraternities from the college up the block. And a scattering of professor types. With pockets of rich kids playing at poverty. The black folks who’ve lived here for decades let them do it, happy for the scientific fact that white kids keep the cops away.

Our immediate neighbors are Venezuelan. They’ve got like nine kids. Our other neighbors are these black grandparents who’ve lived on the property forever. Every few weeks, Mike cooks for both families, sopa de pescado and yams and macaroni and rice. He’s never made a big deal about it, he just wakes up and does it, and after the first few times I asked Mike if that wasn’t patronizing.

But, after a little while, I noticed people let him linger on their porches. He’d poke at their kids, leaning all over the wood. Sometimes the black folks invited him inside, showed him pictures of their daughter’s daughters.

Praise for Bryan Washington
National Book Award 5 Under 35
Winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence
Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize
LOT was one of Barack Obama’s “Favorite Books of the Year”

Praise for Memorial

“Wryly funny, gently devastating … Washington’s hand is effortless—smooth dialogue, a love for good food, and his vibrant, sprawling, gradually gentrifying hometown—in inviting you into a nuanced love story that sticks to you like the Texas heat.” —Entertainment Weekly

Memorial is a wonderful unconventional rom-com [and]. . . a radiant exploration of love’s permutations.” O, The Oprah Magazine

“A fresh, vibrant love story that interweaves race, queerness, nationality, family, and intimacy with narrative ease.” —Vogue

“Implicit in a book about changing relationships and titled “Memorial” is the question of what is being preserved. The book preserves Houston and Osaka. It preserves the feeling of being young and lost. It preserves the food that gives us comfort and nourishment and purpose.” —The New York Times

“Profoundly sensitive. . . . [and] unspool[s] as spontaneously and clearly as late-night conversation. . . . Memorial is a testament to the permanence of filial connections, a clear-eyed acknowledgment that our relatives don’t always behave nicely, but they’re with us for life.” —The Washington Post 

"Memorial isn't just every bit as brilliant as its predecessor. It's somehow even better.... The dialogue in the novel is pitch-perfect, but it's in the spaces between the talking — the awkward silences, the questions left unanswered — that the characters reveal themselves. It's a difficult tactic to pull off, but Washington does it masterfully... Washington is an enormously gifted author, and his writing — spare, unadorned, but beautiful — reads like the work of a writer who's been working for decades, not one who has yet to turn 30. Just like LotMemorial is a quietly stunning book, a masterpiece that asks us to reflect on what we owe to the people who enter our lives." —NPR

“Washington deftly records the way the forces of loyalty pull the heartstrings in different directions. . . . Memorial leaves us with the sense that our true selves, like our true names, aren’t necessarily bestowed at birth. They are chosen, too.” —The New York Times Book Review   

“Extraordinary. . . . Washington writes with ease, like a juggler who is adding in new objects all the time, except the book ends with everything aloft instead of in hand. . . . It can be difficult to share your life with someone; Washington somehow explains this anew. Memorial, on the other hand, is easy to share.” —The Paris Review

“Bryan Washington’s writing is a treasure. . . . brilliant, funny, true.” —Goop

“A very different kind of love story. . . . Washington's deeply touching (and deeply funny) look at love, sex, family, grief, and the ways in which we take care of each other is a revelation, a reminder of how powerful a novel can be.” —Refinery29 

“Dazzling . . . With crackling dialogue and gimlet-eyed humor, Washington paints a vivid, poignant portrait of how love, romantic and familial, is weathered and ultimately deepened by time.” —Esquire 

“Big-hearted and moving.” —Harper's Bazaar

“[Washington's] ability with writing the sensual pleasures of making and eating food is a good way of understanding his ability as a novelist to write about the human mind. It's such a beautiful book. . . . a pure pleasure.” —Rumaan Alam, The Maris Review
 
“Bryan Washington writes quiet. His characters methodically chop cabbage, or slide silently from room to room. Then, bam. A quick, elliptical conversation will smack you sideways with its heft and resonance.” —Vulture

"[Memorial] is a love story about parents and children, colleagues and friends; it is one of circumstance, grief and forgiveness. . . . a melodic sojourn and an earnest expression of humanity." —The Seattle Times
 
"It’s fascinating to watch such a brilliant writer of short fiction expand into the longer form, going deeper into his main characters, who are at once hard to love and hard to forget." — Minneapolis Star-Tribune 
 
"What truly makes Memorial extraordinary — especially the final section — is Washington’s uncanny ability to capture the elusive essence of love on nearly every page." —The San Francisco Chronicle
 
"Fresh and new and daring, while also feeling wholly familiar" —Advocate  

“This book is so poignant and beautiful, asking questions about what it means to live a life and what it means to love.” —LitHub

“This intimate story is about the families we are born into and the families we choose for ourselves. . . . a quiet, sensual exploration of how we decide who we stick around for.” —Mashable 

“This sensitive novel illustrates the deeply individual ways we search for a sense of home.” — RealSimple

“At once a love story, a tale of self-actualization, and an ode to family in every sense of the word.” — Popsugar
 
"With wit and humor, Washington tackles race, class, identity and queerness. . . . In a story about first loves and family, both men will change as they discover their own truths.” —Parade
 
“Washington creates two men so real it feels like even though the book ended, they will keep on living and figuring it out and making mistakes and falling down and getting back up again.” —Alma

“Bryan Washington writes some of contemporary fiction’s most tender stories. . . . Queer love, family dynamics, Houston settings, and cooking . . . . the young writer has brilliantly united them all in his new novel.” —New York Observer
 
“Not only an exploration of a kaleidoscopically diverse America. . . but a moving portrait of two young men who are figuring out exactly who they are in this world. Anyone who enjoyed Washington’s dreamlike yet textured meditations on life in Houston in Lot will be enchanted with Memorial. —The Millions

“Tender, funny, and heartbreaking, this tale of family, food... and growing apart feels intimate and expansive at the same time.” —★Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

“Vividly written... Washington’s novel is richly layered and thrives in the quiet moments between lovers and family members.... There is passion in this novel—fight scenes, sex scenes, screaming matches, and tears—but it reaches a deep poetic realism when Washington explores the space between characters... A subtle and moving exploration of love, family, race, and the long, frustrating search for home.” —★Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review

“This is a love story, writ large, that sings. . . . Washington writes about race, class, family, love, and the idea of home with evocative nuance and phenomenal dialogue.” —★Booklist, STARRED review★ 
 
Memorial is a true page-turner. I was entranced, picking this book up every chance I got. Bryan Washington is a great writer and I love the story he tells here. Intriguing. Each character stays with me.” —Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red At the Bone and Another Brooklyn

“Memorial dares to insist on the mundane, thoroughly lived life as a site of perennial hope, joy, and abundance. It casts a fresh take on the American family that becomes truer because of its disparate origins, the queerness of its genesis, and the buoyed wonder it finds in surviving grief and loss towards the rare and forgiving ground of difficult, hard-won love. All of this done in sentences clean and clear as cut glass. This book, in what feels like a new vision for the 21st century novel, made me happy.” 
—Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

“I was entranced by this deeply original and wholly absorbing novel. Bryan Washington creates characters who are complex, interesting, and three dimensional, and made me care about every single one of them. This book made me think about the nature of love, and family, and anger, and grief, and love again.”
—Jasmine Guillory, author of The Wedding Date and The Proposal

“Brilliantly details the smallest moments that mean the absolute most, the heartbreakingly human limitations of how we love one another, and with all its many roommates and zip codes and implications, Memorial beautifully rests in how difficult it is to ever truly go home.”
—Kiley Reid, author of Such a Fun Age

Memorial is a tour de force, truly unlike anything I've read before. Bryan Washington's take on love, family, and responsibility is as complicated and true as life itself. I can't stop thinking about it.”
—Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto

“Bryan Washington’s Memorial is stunning. Everything happening in this book is so intimate, sensual, and wise. It is a funny book with much sadness and love. It is a story about relationships, and family, and what it means to have and not have home, in Houston, Texas, and in Osaka, Japan. It is also a surprising page-turner. The scenes and characters here couldn’t be more alive and vivid. I love this book.”
—Tommy Orange, author of There, There
 
“Bryan Washington is an expert in illuminating the way we love. Memorial perfectly captures the lives lived in-between what we do and what we say, what we need and what we allow ourselves to have. It is a beautiful heartbreak.”
—Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk
 
“Tender like a bruise, Memorial is a novel of uncommon depth and feeling. It is about everything that matters in life: love, loss, community and communion. Bryan Washington will take your breath away.”
—Katie Kitamura, author of A Separation


Praise for Lot
 
 “Audacious…. Washington is a one-man border-eradicating crew.” —Luis Alberto Urrea, New York Times Book Review
 
“A treat and an inspiration to witness.” —Ocean Vuong, GQ
 
“A brilliant display of raw talent…. This is the literature that I've been waiting for.” —Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Patsy and Here Comes the Sun
 
“The promise Washington displays is real and large.” —Dwight Garner, New York Times
 
“Stunning… It’s hard to overstate what an accomplishment Lot is.” —Michael Schaub, NPR
 
“Funny, sad, wise & very alive in the best way.” —Curtis Sittenfeld (Twitter)
 
“The kind of stories I am always longing to read.” —Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
 
“Gut-wrenching and powerful.” —Cosmopolitan
 
Lot spills over with life – funny, tender, and profane.” —Entertainment Weekly
© Louis Do
Bryan Washington is a National Book Award 5 Under 35 honoree and winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. He received the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award for his first book, Lot, which was also a finalist for the NBCC’s John Leonard Prize, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. He has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, BuzzFeed, Bon Appétit, and GQ, among other publications. He lives in Houston. View titles by Bryan Washington
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•     Kiribati
•     Lesotho
•     Malawi
•     Malaysia
•     Malta
•     Mauritius
•     Montserrat
•     Mozambique
•     Namibia
•     Nauru
•     New Zealand
•     Nigeria
•     Pakistan
•     PapuaNewGuinea
•     Pitcairn Islnds
•     S. Sandwich Ins
•     Seychelles
•     Sierra Leone
•     Solomon Islands
•     Somalia
•     South Africa
•     South Sudan
•     Sri Lanka
•     St. Helena
•     St. Lucia
•     St. Vincent
•     St.Chr.,Nevis
•     Sudan
•     Swaziland
•     Tanzania
•     Tonga
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•     Turks&Caicos Is
•     Tuvalu
•     Uganda
•     United Kingdom
•     Vanuatu
•     Western Samoa
•     Zambia
•     Zimbabwe

About

NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK


Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, O, the Oprah Magazine, Esquire, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, Refinery29, Real Simple, Kirkus Reviews, Electric Literature, and Lit Hub

“A masterpiece. —NPR

“No other novel this year captures so gracefully the full palette of America.The Washington Post

“Wryly funny, gently devastating.” —Entertainment Weekly

A funny and profound story about family in all its strange forms, joyful and hard-won vulnerability, becoming who you're supposed to be, and the limits of love.
 
Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson's a Black day care teacher, and they've been together for a few years—good years—but now they're not sure why they're still a couple. There's the sex, sure, and the meals Mike cooks for Benson, and, well, they love each other.

But when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit, Mike picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye. In Japan he undergoes an extraordinary transformation, discovering the truth about his family and his past. Back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted. Without Mike's immediate pull, Benson begins to push outwards, realizing he might just know what he wants out of life and have the goods to get it.

Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they've ever known. And just maybe they'll all be okay in the end.

Excerpt

1.

Mike’s taking off for Osaka, but his mother’s flying into Houston.
           
Just for a few weeks, he says.
           
Or maybe a couple of months, he says. But I need to go.
           
The first thing I think is: fuck.

The second’s that we don’t have the money for this.

Then, it occurs to me that we don’t have any savings at all. But Mike’s always been good about finances, always cool about separating his checks. It’s something I’d always taken for granted about him.
 
Now, he’s saying that he wants to find his father. The man’s gotten sick. Mike wants to catch him before he goes. And I’m on the sofa, half-listening, half charging my phone.
           
You haven’t seen your mom in years, I say. She’s coming for you. I’ve never met her.
           
I say, You don’t even fucking like your dad.
           
True, says Mike. But I already bought the ticket.
           
And Ma will be here when I’m back, says Mike. You’re great company. She’ll live.
           
He’s cracking eggs by the stove, slipping yolks into a pair of pans. After they’ve settled, he salts them, drizzling mayonnaise with a few sprigs of oregano. Mike used to have this thing about sriracha, he’d pull a hernia whenever I reached for it, but now he squeezes a faded bottle over my omelette, rubbing it in with the spatula.
           
I don’t ask where he’ll stay in Japan. I don’t ask who he’s staying with. I don’t ask where his mother will sleep here, in our one bedroom apartment, or exactly what that arrangement will look like. The thing about a moving train is that, sometimes, you can catch it. Some of the kids I work with, that’s how their families make it into this country. If you fall, you’re dead. If you’re too slow, you’re dead. But if you get a running start, it’s never entirely gone.
           
So I don’t flip the coffee table. Or one of our chairs. I don’t key his car or ram it straight through the living room. After the black eye, we stopped putting our hands on each other -- we’d both figured, silently, it was the least we could do.

Today, what I do is smile.

I thank Mike for letting me know.

I ask him when he’s leaving, and I know that’s my mistake. I’m already reaching to toss my charger before he says it, tomorrow.
 
*
                                                           
We’ve been fine. Thank you for asking.
 
*
                                                                       
Our relationship is, what, four years old? But that depends on how you count. We haven’t been to a party in months, and when we did go to parties, at first, no one knew we were fucking. Mike just stood to the side while whatever white girl talked her way into my space, then he’d reach up over my shoulder to slip a finger into my beer.

Or he’d sneeze, stretch, and wipe his nose with my shirt sleeve.

Or he’d fondle my wallet, slowly, patting it back into place.

Once, at a dinner, right under the table, he held court with a hand in my lap. Running his thumb over the crotch. Every now and again, someone would look and you could tell when they finally saw. They’d straightened their backs. Smile a little too wide. Then Mike would ask what was wrong, and they’d promise it was nothing, and he’d go right back to cheesing, never once nodding my way.
 
We knew how we looked. And how we didn’t look. But one night, a few weeks back, at a bar crawl for Mike’s job, all it took was a glance at us. He works at a coffee shop in Montrose. It’s this fusion thing where they butcher rice bowls and eggrolls -- although, really, it’s Mexican food, since unless your name is Mike that’s who’s cooking.

They’d been open for a year. This was their anniversary celebration. Mike volunteered us to help for an hour, flipping tortillas on a burner by the DJ.

I felt miserable. Mike felt miserable. Everyone who passed us wore this look that said, Mm. They touched our shoulders. Asked how long we’d been together. Wondered where we’d met, how we’d managed during Harvey, and the music was too fucking loud so Mike and I just sort of shrugged.
 
*
 
I don’t say shit on our way to the airport to pick up his mother, and I don’t say shit when Mike parks the car. IAH sits outside of Houston’s beltways, but there’s always steady traffic lining the highway. When Mike pulls up to Arrivals, he takes out the keys, and a line shimmers behind us, this tiny constellation of travelers.
 
Mike’s got this mustache now. It wavers over his face. He usually clips all of that off, and now I think he looks like a caricature of himself. We sit beside the terminal, and we can’t have the most fucked up situation here, but still. You have to wonder.

I wonder.

I wonder if he wonders.

We haven’t been good at apologizing lately. Now would be a nice time.

The airport sees about 111,500 visitors a day, and here we are, two of its most ridiculous.

Hey, says Mike.

He sighs. Hands me the keys. Says he’ll be right back with his mother.

If you leave us stranded in the parking lot, says Mike, we’ll probably find you.
 
*
 
It took all of two dates for him to bring up Race. We’d gone to an Irish bar tucked behind Hyde Park. Everyone else on the patio was white. I’d gotten a little drunk, and when I told Mike he was slightly shorter than optimal, he clicked his tongue, like, what took you so long.
           
What if I told you you’re too polite, said Mike.
           
Fine, I said.
           
Or that you’re so well-spoken.

I get it. Sorry.
           
Don’t be sorry, said Mike, and then he boxed my shoulder.

It was the first time we’d touched that night. The bartender glanced our way, blinking.
           
I just hope you see me as a fully realized human being, said Mike. Beyond the obvious sex appeal.
           
Shut up, I said. 

Seriously, said Mike, no bullshit.

Me Mifune, he said, you Yasuke.

Stop it, I said.
           
Or maybe we’re just fucking Bonnie and Clyde, he said.
 
*
 
Three different cops peek in the car while Mike’s in baggage claim. I smile at the first two. I frown at the third. The last guy taps the window, like, What the fuck are you waiting for, and when I point towards the airport’s entrance all he does is frown.
 
Then I spot them on their way out. The first thing I think is that they look like family. Mike’s mother is hunched, just a little bit, and he’s rolling her suitcase behind her. For a while, they saw each other annually she’d fly down just to visit, but the past few years have been rocky. The visits stopped once I moved in with Mike.

The least I can do is pop the trunk. I’d like to be the guy who doesn’t, but I’m not.
Mike helps his mother adjust the backseat as she gets in, and she doesn’t even look at me. Her hair’s in a bun. She’s got on this bright blue windbreaker, with a sickness mask, and the faintest trace of make-up.
           
Ma, says Mike, you hungry?
           
She mumbles something in Japanese. Shrugs.
           
Ma, says Mike.
           
He glances at me. Asks again. Then he switches over, too.

She says something, and then he says something, and then another guy directing traffic walks up to my window. He’s Latino, husky in his vest. Shaved head like he’s in the Army. He mouths at us through the glass, and I let the window down, and he asks if anything’s wrong.

I tell him we’re moving.
           
Then move, says this man.
           
The next words leave my mouth before I can taste them. It’s a little like gravity. I say, Okay, motherfucker, we’re gone.
           
And the Latino guy just frowns at me. Before he says anything else, there’s a bout of honking behind us. He looks at me again, and then he wanders away, scratching at his chest, wincing back at our car.
 
When I roll the window up, Mike’s staring. His mother is, too. She says something, shaking her head, and I pull the car into traffic.

I turn on the radio, and it’s Meek Mill.

I flip the channel, and it’s Migos.

I turn the damn thing off. Eventually we’re on the highway.

All of a sudden, we’re just one more soap opera among way too many, but that’s when Mike’s mother laughs, shaking her head.

She says something in Japanese.

Mike thumps the glove compartment, says, Ma.

*

My parents pretend I’m not gay. It’s easier for them than it sounds. My father lives in Katy, just west of Houston, and my mother stayed in Bellaire, even after she remarried. Before that, we took most of our family dinners downtown. My father was a meteorologist. It was a status thing. He’d pick my sister and my mother and me up from the house, ferrying us up I-45 just to eat with his co-workers, and he always ordered our table the largest dish on the menu—basted pigs spilling from platters, pounds of steamed crab sizzling over bok choi—and he called this Work, because he was always Working.

A question he used to ask us was, How many niggas do you see out here telling the weather?
 
My mother never debated him or cussed him out or anything like that. She’d repeat exactly what he said. Inflect his voice. That was her thing. She’d make him sound important, like some kind of boss, but my father’s a little man, and her tactics did exactly what you’d think they might do.
           
Big job today, she’d say, in the car, stuck on the 10.
           
This forecast’s impressive, she’d say, moments after my father shattered a wine glass on the kitchen wall.
           
I swear it’s the last one, she’d say, looking him dead in the eyes, as he floundered, drunk, grabbing at her knees, swearing that he’d never touch another single beer.
 
Eventually, she left. Lydia went with our mother, switching high schools. I stayed in the suburbs, at my old junior high, and my father kept drinking. He lived off his savings once he got fired from the station for being wasted on-air. Sometimes, he’d sub high school science classes, but he mostly stayed on the sofa, booing at the hourly prognoses from KHOU.

Occasionally, in blips of sobriety, I’d come home to him grading papers. Some kid had called precipitation anticipation. Another kid, instead of defining cumulus clouds, drew little fluffs all over the page. One time my father laid three tests on an already too cluttered end table, all with identical handwriting, and only the names changed. 

He waved them at me, asked why everything had to be so fucking hard.
 
*
 
A few months in, Mike said we could be whatever we wanted to be. Whatever that looked like.

I’m so easy, he said.
           
I’m not, I told him.
           
You will be, he said. Just give me a little time.
 
*
 
It’s past midnight when we pull onto our block. Most of the lights are out. Some kids are huddled by the curb, smoking pot, fucking around with firecrackers.
When a pop explodes behind us, the kids take off. That’s their latest thing. Mike’s mother doesn’t even flinch.

Ma, says Mike, this is home.
 
We live in the Third Ward, a historically black part of Houston. Our apartment’s entirely too large. It doesn’t make any sense. At one point, the neighborhood had money, but then crack happened and the money took off, and occasionally you’ll hear gunshots or fistfights or motherfuckers driving way too fast. But the block has recently been invaded by fraternities from the college up the block. And a scattering of professor types. With pockets of rich kids playing at poverty. The black folks who’ve lived here for decades let them do it, happy for the scientific fact that white kids keep the cops away.

Our immediate neighbors are Venezuelan. They’ve got like nine kids. Our other neighbors are these black grandparents who’ve lived on the property forever. Every few weeks, Mike cooks for both families, sopa de pescado and yams and macaroni and rice. He’s never made a big deal about it, he just wakes up and does it, and after the first few times I asked Mike if that wasn’t patronizing.

But, after a little while, I noticed people let him linger on their porches. He’d poke at their kids, leaning all over the wood. Sometimes the black folks invited him inside, showed him pictures of their daughter’s daughters.

Praise

Praise for Bryan Washington
National Book Award 5 Under 35
Winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence
Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize
LOT was one of Barack Obama’s “Favorite Books of the Year”

Praise for Memorial

“Wryly funny, gently devastating … Washington’s hand is effortless—smooth dialogue, a love for good food, and his vibrant, sprawling, gradually gentrifying hometown—in inviting you into a nuanced love story that sticks to you like the Texas heat.” —Entertainment Weekly

Memorial is a wonderful unconventional rom-com [and]. . . a radiant exploration of love’s permutations.” O, The Oprah Magazine

“A fresh, vibrant love story that interweaves race, queerness, nationality, family, and intimacy with narrative ease.” —Vogue

“Implicit in a book about changing relationships and titled “Memorial” is the question of what is being preserved. The book preserves Houston and Osaka. It preserves the feeling of being young and lost. It preserves the food that gives us comfort and nourishment and purpose.” —The New York Times

“Profoundly sensitive. . . . [and] unspool[s] as spontaneously and clearly as late-night conversation. . . . Memorial is a testament to the permanence of filial connections, a clear-eyed acknowledgment that our relatives don’t always behave nicely, but they’re with us for life.” —The Washington Post 

"Memorial isn't just every bit as brilliant as its predecessor. It's somehow even better.... The dialogue in the novel is pitch-perfect, but it's in the spaces between the talking — the awkward silences, the questions left unanswered — that the characters reveal themselves. It's a difficult tactic to pull off, but Washington does it masterfully... Washington is an enormously gifted author, and his writing — spare, unadorned, but beautiful — reads like the work of a writer who's been working for decades, not one who has yet to turn 30. Just like LotMemorial is a quietly stunning book, a masterpiece that asks us to reflect on what we owe to the people who enter our lives." —NPR

“Washington deftly records the way the forces of loyalty pull the heartstrings in different directions. . . . Memorial leaves us with the sense that our true selves, like our true names, aren’t necessarily bestowed at birth. They are chosen, too.” —The New York Times Book Review   

“Extraordinary. . . . Washington writes with ease, like a juggler who is adding in new objects all the time, except the book ends with everything aloft instead of in hand. . . . It can be difficult to share your life with someone; Washington somehow explains this anew. Memorial, on the other hand, is easy to share.” —The Paris Review

“Bryan Washington’s writing is a treasure. . . . brilliant, funny, true.” —Goop

“A very different kind of love story. . . . Washington's deeply touching (and deeply funny) look at love, sex, family, grief, and the ways in which we take care of each other is a revelation, a reminder of how powerful a novel can be.” —Refinery29 

“Dazzling . . . With crackling dialogue and gimlet-eyed humor, Washington paints a vivid, poignant portrait of how love, romantic and familial, is weathered and ultimately deepened by time.” —Esquire 

“Big-hearted and moving.” —Harper's Bazaar

“[Washington's] ability with writing the sensual pleasures of making and eating food is a good way of understanding his ability as a novelist to write about the human mind. It's such a beautiful book. . . . a pure pleasure.” —Rumaan Alam, The Maris Review
 
“Bryan Washington writes quiet. His characters methodically chop cabbage, or slide silently from room to room. Then, bam. A quick, elliptical conversation will smack you sideways with its heft and resonance.” —Vulture

"[Memorial] is a love story about parents and children, colleagues and friends; it is one of circumstance, grief and forgiveness. . . . a melodic sojourn and an earnest expression of humanity." —The Seattle Times
 
"It’s fascinating to watch such a brilliant writer of short fiction expand into the longer form, going deeper into his main characters, who are at once hard to love and hard to forget." — Minneapolis Star-Tribune 
 
"What truly makes Memorial extraordinary — especially the final section — is Washington’s uncanny ability to capture the elusive essence of love on nearly every page." —The San Francisco Chronicle
 
"Fresh and new and daring, while also feeling wholly familiar" —Advocate  

“This book is so poignant and beautiful, asking questions about what it means to live a life and what it means to love.” —LitHub

“This intimate story is about the families we are born into and the families we choose for ourselves. . . . a quiet, sensual exploration of how we decide who we stick around for.” —Mashable 

“This sensitive novel illustrates the deeply individual ways we search for a sense of home.” — RealSimple

“At once a love story, a tale of self-actualization, and an ode to family in every sense of the word.” — Popsugar
 
"With wit and humor, Washington tackles race, class, identity and queerness. . . . In a story about first loves and family, both men will change as they discover their own truths.” —Parade
 
“Washington creates two men so real it feels like even though the book ended, they will keep on living and figuring it out and making mistakes and falling down and getting back up again.” —Alma

“Bryan Washington writes some of contemporary fiction’s most tender stories. . . . Queer love, family dynamics, Houston settings, and cooking . . . . the young writer has brilliantly united them all in his new novel.” —New York Observer
 
“Not only an exploration of a kaleidoscopically diverse America. . . but a moving portrait of two young men who are figuring out exactly who they are in this world. Anyone who enjoyed Washington’s dreamlike yet textured meditations on life in Houston in Lot will be enchanted with Memorial. —The Millions

“Tender, funny, and heartbreaking, this tale of family, food... and growing apart feels intimate and expansive at the same time.” —★Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

“Vividly written... Washington’s novel is richly layered and thrives in the quiet moments between lovers and family members.... There is passion in this novel—fight scenes, sex scenes, screaming matches, and tears—but it reaches a deep poetic realism when Washington explores the space between characters... A subtle and moving exploration of love, family, race, and the long, frustrating search for home.” —★Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review

“This is a love story, writ large, that sings. . . . Washington writes about race, class, family, love, and the idea of home with evocative nuance and phenomenal dialogue.” —★Booklist, STARRED review★ 
 
Memorial is a true page-turner. I was entranced, picking this book up every chance I got. Bryan Washington is a great writer and I love the story he tells here. Intriguing. Each character stays with me.” —Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red At the Bone and Another Brooklyn

“Memorial dares to insist on the mundane, thoroughly lived life as a site of perennial hope, joy, and abundance. It casts a fresh take on the American family that becomes truer because of its disparate origins, the queerness of its genesis, and the buoyed wonder it finds in surviving grief and loss towards the rare and forgiving ground of difficult, hard-won love. All of this done in sentences clean and clear as cut glass. This book, in what feels like a new vision for the 21st century novel, made me happy.” 
—Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

“I was entranced by this deeply original and wholly absorbing novel. Bryan Washington creates characters who are complex, interesting, and three dimensional, and made me care about every single one of them. This book made me think about the nature of love, and family, and anger, and grief, and love again.”
—Jasmine Guillory, author of The Wedding Date and The Proposal

“Brilliantly details the smallest moments that mean the absolute most, the heartbreakingly human limitations of how we love one another, and with all its many roommates and zip codes and implications, Memorial beautifully rests in how difficult it is to ever truly go home.”
—Kiley Reid, author of Such a Fun Age

Memorial is a tour de force, truly unlike anything I've read before. Bryan Washington's take on love, family, and responsibility is as complicated and true as life itself. I can't stop thinking about it.”
—Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto

“Bryan Washington’s Memorial is stunning. Everything happening in this book is so intimate, sensual, and wise. It is a funny book with much sadness and love. It is a story about relationships, and family, and what it means to have and not have home, in Houston, Texas, and in Osaka, Japan. It is also a surprising page-turner. The scenes and characters here couldn’t be more alive and vivid. I love this book.”
—Tommy Orange, author of There, There
 
“Bryan Washington is an expert in illuminating the way we love. Memorial perfectly captures the lives lived in-between what we do and what we say, what we need and what we allow ourselves to have. It is a beautiful heartbreak.”
—Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk
 
“Tender like a bruise, Memorial is a novel of uncommon depth and feeling. It is about everything that matters in life: love, loss, community and communion. Bryan Washington will take your breath away.”
—Katie Kitamura, author of A Separation


Praise for Lot
 
 “Audacious…. Washington is a one-man border-eradicating crew.” —Luis Alberto Urrea, New York Times Book Review
 
“A treat and an inspiration to witness.” —Ocean Vuong, GQ
 
“A brilliant display of raw talent…. This is the literature that I've been waiting for.” —Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Patsy and Here Comes the Sun
 
“The promise Washington displays is real and large.” —Dwight Garner, New York Times
 
“Stunning… It’s hard to overstate what an accomplishment Lot is.” —Michael Schaub, NPR
 
“Funny, sad, wise & very alive in the best way.” —Curtis Sittenfeld (Twitter)
 
“The kind of stories I am always longing to read.” —Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
 
“Gut-wrenching and powerful.” —Cosmopolitan
 
Lot spills over with life – funny, tender, and profane.” —Entertainment Weekly

Author

© Louis Do
Bryan Washington is a National Book Award 5 Under 35 honoree and winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. He received the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award for his first book, Lot, which was also a finalist for the NBCC’s John Leonard Prize, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. He has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, BuzzFeed, Bon Appétit, and GQ, among other publications. He lives in Houston. View titles by Bryan Washington

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Not available for sale:
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