The Sellout

Written by: Paul Beatty

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The Sellout isn’t just one of the most hilarious American novels in years, it also might be the first truly great satirical novel of the century . . . [It] is a comic masterpiece, but it’s much more than just that-it’s one of the smartest and most honest reflections on race and identity in America in a very long time.” ―Michael Schaub, NPR.org

In Paul Beatty’s scathingly satirical novel “The Sellout,” a young man’s unconventional upbringing and a controversial race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court serve as the backdrop for a razor-sharp examination of American society. Beatty’s comic genius is on full display as he fearlessly tackles the most sacred institutions of the United States, from the Constitution to the civil rights movement, urban life, and the elusive ideal of racial equality.

The narrator, born in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens on the outskirts of Los Angeles, seems resigned to the fate of lower-middle-class Californians, expecting to “die in the same bedroom I’d grown up in.” Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, the narrator’s childhood was spent as a subject in racially charged psychological studies, with the promise that his father’s groundbreaking work would result in a memoir that would solve the family’s financial troubles. However, when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, the narrator discovers that no such memoir exists, leaving him with nothing but the bill for a drive-thru funeral.

Driven by this betrayal and the overall decay of his hometown, the narrator embarks on an audacious mission to right another wrong: the literal removal of Dickens from the map to spare California further embarrassment. With the help of the town’s most famous resident, Hominy Jenkins, the last surviving Little Rascal, the narrator takes the most outrageous action imaginable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school. This lands him in the Supreme Court, where the novel reaches its climax.

“The Sellout” is a daring and provocative work that skewers the most sensitive issues of our time with wit, intelligence, and an unwavering commitment to exposing the absurdities and contradictions of modern American life. Beatty’s sharp prose and biting humor make for a thought-provoking and unforgettable read that will leave readers both laughing and reflecting on the state of our society.

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