The Sellout is the first book by an American author to win the UK's prestigious Man Booker Prize.
A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty's The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. 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.
Fuelled 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.
I suppose that's exactly the problem-I wasn't raised to know any better. My father was (Carl Jung, rest his soul) a social scientist of some renown. As the founder and, to my knowledge, sole practitioner of the field of Liberation Psychology, he liked to walk around the house, aka "the Skinner box," in a laboratory coat. Where I, his gangly, absentminded black lab rat was homeschooled in strict accordance with Piaget's theory of cognitive development. I wasn't fed; I was presented with lukewarm appetitive stimuli. I wasn't punished, but broken of my unconditioned reflexes. I wasn't loved, but brought up in an atmosphere of calculated intimacy and intense levels of commitment.
We lived in Dickens, a ghetto community on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, and as odd as it might sound, I grew up on a farm in the inner city. Founded in 1868, Dickens, like most California towns except for Irvine, which was established as a breeding ground for stupid, fat, ugly, white Republicans and ...
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“If New York is the City That Never Sleeps, then Los Angeles is the City That’s Always Passed Out on the Couch.” After race, celebrity culture is a major target of Beatty's criticism in the novel. There's the obvious example of Hominy and [i]The ... - MattGrant
Did you laugh or cry at the experiments run by the narrator's psychologist/social scientist dad? Does your experience of the world support his three-stage Theory of Quintessential Blackness?
So far removed from the way I grew up! I wouldn't say that I cried but I felt it was really disturbing! I thought it was one of those "funny not funny" episodes.. - beckys
Do you think THE SELLOUT puts a positive light on blacks in America or does it have the opposite effect?
The story is about a small insular section of the country. It doesn't really put a positive or negative light on blacks in America. You can't judge the whole from one tiny dot. To me, it only shows that people - no matter what color - can be smart... - jww
Does the concept of a ledger, designed to keep track debts and payments accurately reflect the history of humanity in America? When Foy Cheshire calls the narrator a sellout, what is he saying was sold? Who were the buyers?
The concept of a leger really reduces selected people to mere merchandise. In our attempt to repair the damage done to certain groups by compensating them, we never can give back the basic dignity we have taken from them - pennyp
How did you react when the narrator created Dickens's boundary lines, and Marpessa ejected strangers from the bus?
I liked the boundary lines, but they could also have put a physical,line on the areas where Blacks were not allowed to live. It also brings back that time. As to being thrown off the bus, this too brings back a picture of the last. - Peggy H
The Sellout feels irreverent, over-the-top, but never so much so that it loses its thoughtfulness or its heart. “Who am I? And how may I become myself?” are questions repeated several times in the novel, questions that remind readers repeatedly of the universality behind the narrator’s story, despite its specific circumstances and its audacious veneer. Even though Beatty’s novel is uniquely American, steeped in the painful history and ongoing discord that characterize race relations here, perhaps this universality is part of what the Man Booker Prize judges recognized and rightly rewarded.
(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Full Review (808 words).
One 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.
Among 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 ...
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