Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

The Sellout by Paul Beatty
(Audible Studios, 2015)
Read by Prentice Onayemi

This title is a nominee in the 2016 Audie Awards: Fiction Category

From Goodreads: “Paul Beatty's The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, it challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality—the black Chinese restaurant.
Born in the "agrarian ghetto" of Dickens—on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles—the narrator of The Sellout resigns himself to the fate of lower-middle-class Californians: "I'd die in the same bedroom I'd grown up in, looking up at the cracks in the stucco ceiling that've been there since '68 quake." Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father's pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family's financial woes, but when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that's left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral.
Fueled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town's most famous resident—the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins—he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.”

The best book I read in 2015. I listened to it twice, forced it on my less-frequent-audio-listening family, and bought the print version so I could highlight my favorite passages. There’s nothing reverent about it, nothing gentle, and nothing held back. If you get through the prologue (our narrator toking up at the Supreme Court, where his trial for becoming a slaveholder and segregationist is getting underway) and aren’t gripped, you probably shouldn’t continue. But if you do, you’ll be rewarded with humor, dazzling prose, and thought-provoking ideas piling up so fast you won’t have time to dissect one before the next one hits you.

Prentice Onayemi clearly loved this novel as much as I did. He mapped his emotions directly to those of the narrator, and approached the text with a light touch that paired well with the book’s intensity. He doesn’t wait for you to catch up – you just have to run alongside him as he delivers Beatty’s biting and often discursive words. And if you do, your heart with race with joy.

The Sellout is my pick for the win in the Audies fiction category. 

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