Paul Beatty presents a roguishly sharp addressing of current race relations within the United States within his Booker Prize-winning novel, The Sellout. In his plight to put his home town of Dickens back on the map, our protagonist (whose first name we never discover) explores notions of modern-day slavery under an Obama presidency, the revival of segregation in schools whilst also acknowledging the blatant racism of Hollywood, hiring black actors simply for their sense of ‘blackness’.
Our protagonist guides us through the chapters with a lexicon that can only be appreciated by sociology graduates, documenting in the earliest pages of the narrative as to how he was a guinea pig for his father’s experiments and torture in an attempt to mimic and alter notorious psychological experiments within the parameters of an African-American lifestyle adjacent to the struggles of a black community in small-town California.
Beatty presents his audience with the complete absurdity of segregation and slave-holding. The author is willing to excite and shock his audience as a means to illustrate the everyday strains of a black community, whether that be the ejection of black communities from city maps, the use of racial slurs, or the tremendous difficulties for black children to attend mostly white schools.
I wholeheartedly recommend that people read The Sellout as means to further understand and appreciate the tribulations of a much-subjugated class to acknowledge the role of often ignored small ghetto-like communities in the path of large-scale gentrification.
The Sellout by Paul Beatty. Picador, March 2016.
Reviewer bio: I’m Jack Graham, currently studying my Masters in English Literary Studies at Durham University.
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