The Sellout by Paul Beatty

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Literary establishment meets racial politics, The Sellout is surprising- as if the Times Literary Supplement decided to branch out into gangster rap. So what can I say about The Sellout that hasn’t already been said? Booker prize-winning, universally acclaimed. Needless to say I was sceptical.

Me wants to put his neighbourhood Dickens, California back on the map from the external pressures of gentrification and transience. He decides to do this by reintroducing slavery and racial segregation as a means of redefining the area’s black identity.

Yikes.

I loved it. It’s like reading the wittiest, most lyrical rap you’ve ever heard. Reading being the right term- it’s almost a work of academia in how layered and insightful it is in dialogue on identity and challenging philosophy. It takes every racial stereotype and interrogates it uncomfortably and effectively.

As clever as it is, it’s also side-splittingly funny. Beatty teases the reader with the taboo, the inappropriate, the things you shouldn’t laugh at. There’s an absolutely hilarious scene where Me is encouraged by his bonkers father to wolf-whistle at a white woman in some misguided attempt to demonstrate interracial sexual relations.

For a book dealing with such weighty topics the whole thing is vibrant and spitting with life, joy and rhymes.

Read: for something punchy to wake you up on your morning commute

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