The memoir of a gay New York playwright who grew up in a conservative Jewish community in Brooklyn might sound a bit niche, but David Adjmi’s Lot Six ushers readers into fundamental questions of identity, community and belonging. The writing is vibrant, edgy, scenic and exciting. The figures of Adjmi’s childhood—such as Howie, a brilliant outcast who befriends him in elementary school—come off the page as though the reader is meeting them in person. Adjmi also emerges as a sensitive and faithful—and funny!—narrator who is keen to notice his own reactions to particular moments and perceptive about how his early experiences fostered a kaleidoscopic inner life that informed both the formation of his identity and the art he would later make.
From his adoration of the gruesome musical Sweeney Todd to his alienation from the popular children at his elementary school, Adjmi moves on to chronicle his adolescent and high school years. He leaves behind the cultural and social confines of his community by attending an art school with only one friend from his neighborhood. Adjmi becomes almost ethnographically obsessed with observing the behavior of his peers—and he goes through some changes of his own, too, growing his hair into dreadlocks and attending a college in California against his counselor’s advice that the East Coast Sarah Lawrence might be a better fit. (He eventually transfers.)
Adjmi had always been a competent student, but his passions alight when he realizes he wants to write plays. His entrance to the cloistered, insulated world of New York theater showcases both his brilliance and his increasing contrariness. As Adjmi realizes who he is, he finds it harder to fill his teachers’ perceptions of what he should be. Ultimately—and fittingly—his first major professional success is a mashup of his own favorite plays and his memories of growing up queer in his Syrian Jewish community.
In all, Lot Six is about finding out who you really are and learning to, as Nietzsche famously wrote, “amor fati” (love your fate).