Books

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.

Paul Beatty is an American poet and novelist. His other books include the novels The White Boy ShuffleTuff and Slumberland and the poetry collections Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. When The Sellout won the Booker Prize, Paul Beatty was the first American writer to receive the award.

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.

Interviews with Paul Beatty

The American novelist and poet discusses his novel, The Sellout. 51:38

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