Summer Sale! Save 20% today and get access to all our member benefits.

Excerpt from The Sellout by Paul Beatty, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Sellout

by Paul Beatty

The Sellout by Paul Beatty X
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 304 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 2016, 304 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


My memories of my father aren't all bad. Though technically I was an only child, Daddy, like many black men, had lots of kids. The citizens of Dickens were his progeny. While he wasn't very good with horses, he was known around town as the Nigger Whisperer. Whenever some nigger who'd "done lost they motherfucking mind" needed to be talked down from a tree or freeway overpass precipice, the call would go out. My father would grab his social psychology bible, The Planning of Change, by Bennis, Benne, and Robert Chin, a woefully underappreciated Chinese-American psychologist my dad had never met but claimed as his mentor. Most kids got bedtime stories and fairy tales; I had to fall asleep to readings from chapters with titles like "The Utility of Models of the Environments of Systems for Practitioners." My father was nothing if not a practitioner. I can't remember a time when he didn't bring me along on a nigger whisper. On the drive over he'd brag that the black community was a lot like him-ABD.

"All but dissertation?"

"All but defeated."

When we arrived, he'd sit me on the roof of a nearby minivan or stand me atop an alleyway Dumpster, hand me a legal pad, and tell me to take notes. Among all the flashing sirens, the crying and broken glass crunching softly under his buckskin shoes, I'd be so scared for him. But Daddy had a way of approaching the unapproachable. His face sympathetic and sullen, palms turned up like a dashboard Jesus figurine, he'd walk toward some knife-wielding lunatic whose pupils were dilated to the size of atoms smashed by a quart of Hennessy XO and a twelve-pack light-beer chaser. Ignoring the bloodstained work uniform caked in brain and fecal matter, he'd hug the person like he was greeting an old friend. People thought it was his selflessness that allowed him to get so close, but to me it was his voice that got him over. Doo-wop bass deep, my father spoke in F-sharp. A resonant low-pitched tone that rooted you in place like a bobby-socked teenager listening to the Five Satins sing "In the Still of the Night." It's not music that soothes the savage beast but the systematic desensitization. And Father's voice had a way of relaxing the enraged and allowing them to confront their fears anxiety-free.

When I was in grade school, I knew from how the taste of the pomegranates would bring you to tears, from the way the summer sun turned our Afros blood-orange red, and from how giddy my father would get whenever he talked about Dodger Stadium, white Zinfandel, and the latest green flash sunset he'd seen from the summit of Mount Wilson that California was a special place. And if you think about it, pretty much everything that made the twentieth century bearable was invented in a California garage: the Apple computer, the Boogie Board, and gangster rap. Thanks to my dad's career in nigger-whispering, I was there for the birth of the latter, when at six o'clock on a cold, dark ghetto morning two blocks down from where I live, Carl "Kilo G" Garfield, hallucinating high on his own supply and Alfred Lord Tennyson's brooding lyricism, burst out of his garage squinting into his Moleskin, a smoldering crack pipe dangling from fingertips. It was the height of the crack rock era. I was about ten when he clambered into the bed of his tricked-out, hot-rod yellow Toyota pickup truck, the TO and the TA buffed out and painted over so that the brand name on the tailgate read just YO, and began reciting his verse at the top of his lungs, the slurred iambic pentameter punctuated with gun claps from his nickel-plated .38 and pleas from his mama to take his naked ass inside.

THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT-SKINNED SPADE

Half a liter, half a liter,

Half a liter onward

All in the alley of Death

Rode the Olde English Eight Hundred.

Forward, the Light-skinned Spade!

"Charge for the Bloods!" he said:

Into the alley of Death

Rode the Olde English Eight Hundred ...

Excerpted from The Sellout by Paul Beatty. Copyright © 2015 by Paul Beatty. Excerpted by permission of Picador. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Our Gang Films

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Mood Swings
    Mood Swings
    by Frankie Barnet
    This book begins with a bombastic premise. Seemingly fed up with the heating planet, the world's ...
  • Book Jacket: The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye
    The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye
    by Briony Cameron
    Our titular heroine's story begins in Yáquimo, Santo Domingo. Jacquotte Delahaye is a young ...
  • Book Jacket: Another Word for Love
    Another Word for Love
    by Carvell Wallace
    "I write about beautiful things because I live in a country that has tried to kill me and every...
  • Book Jacket
    The Flower Sisters
    by Michelle Collins Anderson
    Michelle Collins Anderson's novel The Flower Sisters, based in part on a real tragedy that occurred ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
The 1619 Project
by Nikole Hannah-Jones
An impactful expansion of groundbreaking journalism, The 1619 Project offers a revealing vision of America's past and present.
Who Said...

Anagrams

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

L T C O of the B

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.