The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Pages: 289
Genre: Fiction
Read: January 2017
Rating: 6/10

Adjectives To Describe This Book: Satirical, Unnerving, Not subtle, Politically Incorrect, Outrageous

Read If You Are: Looking to read a dark humorous satire on American race and it’s ‘evolution’

The main character/narrator is an African-American named Bonbon and is being tried in the United State’s Supreme Court for violations against civil rights by keeping a slave and enforcing segregation in his town.

I know. Sounds crazy – and that’s just the first 10 pages.

The book is a flashback that takes us through the narrator’s life in the ‘agrarian ghetto’ of LA called Dickens, which now has been wiped off the map for being an ‘embarrassment to California’.

We are taken in flashes through his turbulent childhood with his father – a crazy, genius (?!) experimentative sociologist specialising in race to his current quandary when he has taken up a slave and is attempting to segregate his town. The man isn’t a racist – he’s just highly ‘evolved’ who believes and proves that segregation helps the communities keep each other in check and thus, grow.

The book is rooted in the political background of today with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement – shootings of black men by the police, the call for equal rights, etc. Beatty takes these serious matters and turns it on its head. For example, the way the narrator reacts – calm and unruffled – when he finds his father shot dead for no apparent reason by the LAPD.

This isn’t a book that isn’t for the light-hearted. The text is splayed with curse words and inappropriateness (in various languages, in fact). However, it makes you think, makes you question and that’s where the true genius of this book lies.

The characters are outrageous and larger than life to say the least. In the politically correct world that we live in where saying anything can offend Person A, B and/or C; this book aims to shock your senses.

And shock my senses it did! I don’t think I appreciated the book as much because I’m not too into dark humour of any kind. (I cringe during ‘Dead Baby’ jokes.) However, for those who do and appreciate a book rooted in the sociopolitical scenarios of today, look no further!

The Sellout is the Man Booker Prize winner of 2016.

Favourite Quotes:

“Silence can be either protest or consent, but most times it’s fear.”

“The real question is not where do ideas come from but where do they go.”

“…you have to ask yourself two questions: Who am I? And how may I become myself?”

“Sometimes I wish Darth Vader had been my father. I’d have been better off. I wouldn’t have a right hand, but I definitely wouldn’t have the burden of being black and constantly having to decide when and if I gave a shit about it. Plus, I’m left-handed.”

“They say a cigarette takes three minutes off your life, but good hashish makes dying seem so far away.”


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