The Sellout

Paul Beatty's satirical novel on racism in America won the 2016 Man Booker Prize.

Paul Beatty

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. (From Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

The Sellout won the 2016 Man Booker Prize and 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction.

Excerpt | Author interviews

From the book

This may be hard to believe, coming from a black man, but I've never stolen anything. Never cheated on my taxes or at cards. Never snuck into the movies or failed to give back the extra change to a drugstore cashier indifferent to the ways of mercantilism and minimum-wage expectations. I've never burgled a house. Held up a liquor store.

From The Sellout by Paul Beatty ©2015. Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Author interviews

American novelist and poet Paul Beatty speaks with Eleanor about his new book, 'The Sellout.' A "cheerfully outrageous" satire, the book has received rave reviews and was included on many best of the year lists, including The New York Times' Top Ten. 51:38