The Our Gang Films: Background information when reading The Sellout

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

The Our Gang Films

This article relates to The Sellout

Print Review

The GangOne of the central characters in The Sellout is Hominy Jenkins, an elderly black man who was, in his youth, a lesser-known member of the group of child actors featured in the Our Gang series of short films. Hominy Jenkins might be fictional, but Our Gang was certainly not. Produced from 1922 to 1944 by comedy producer Hal Roach, the original films (many of which later made it to television under the title Little Rascals) began as silent movies and ultimately encompassed more than two hundred shorts as well as a feature-length movie.

The GangAmong the most memorable, long-standing characters were Alfalfa, Spanky, Porky, Darla, Farina, and Buckwheat. The films – and consequently their child stars – were phenomenally popular. Featuring child actors in comedic situations, the films were notable for featuring a relatively diverse cast – including both white and black characters as well as Asian-American and Italian-American children – at a time when racial tensions in the United States were particularly fraught.

The GangIn her recent book Our Gang: A Racial History of The Little Rascals, Julia Lee traces the racial imagery used in the films themselves as well as the reception of their African-American stars. She notes that, especially when viewed with contemporary eyes, the films utilize numerous racist stereotypes, often for humor; on the other hand, however, the films portrayed children of different races playing together as equals, imagery that had not been previously seen on screen (and that got the films banned from some Southern theaters). By recalling the history of Our Gang and its complicated balancing act between minstrelsy and a sort of progressivism, Beatty gives readers hints as to the kind of playfulness and complicated cultural commentary his novel engages in as well.

The Gang: Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison, Andy Samuel, Allen "Farina" Hoskins, Mickey Daniels and Joe Cobb in a 1923 still from one of the earliest comedies.
Poster of the movie Our Gang.
The Gang, courtesy of Hollywood Reporter.

Article by Norah Piehl

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Sellout. It first ran in the January 18, 2017 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • 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 $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Becoming
    Becoming
    by Michelle Obama
    Voted 2019 Best Nonfiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    BookBrowse hosted a Book Club ...
  • Book Jacket: Butterfly Yellow
    Butterfly Yellow
    by Thanhha Lai, Daniel Suarez
    Voted 2019 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    As readers, many of us hope ...
  • Book Jacket: Olive, Again
    Olive, Again
    by Elizabeth Strout
    Voted 2019 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    It's been a big year for literary ...
  • Book Jacket: Solitary
    Solitary
    by Albert Woodfox
    Voted 2019 Best Debut Author Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    According to statistics from ...

Book Club
Book Jacket
Evening in Paradise
by Lucia Berlin

"Berlin's new book is a marvel, filled with deeply touching stories about lives on the fringes."—NPR

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Nothing to See Here
    by Kevin Wilson

    A moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning caring for two children with remarkable abilities.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Butterfly Yellow

BUTTERFLY YELLOW

Winner of the BookBrowse Award for Best Young Adult Novel, and the overall highest rated book of the year!

Enter

Wordplay

The Big Holiday Wordplay

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

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.