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The Sellout
Cover of The Sellout
The Sellout
A Novel
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Winner of the Man Booker Prize

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction

Winner of the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature

New York Times Bestseller

Los Angeles Times Bestseller

Named One of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review

Named a Best Book of the Year by Newsweek, The Denver Post, BuzzFeed, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly

Named a "Must-Read" by Flavorwire and New York Magazine's "Vulture" Blog

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.

Fueled 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.

Winner of the Man Booker Prize

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction

Winner of the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature

New York Times Bestseller

Los Angeles Times Bestseller

Named One of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review

Named a Best Book of the Year by Newsweek, The Denver Post, BuzzFeed, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly

Named a "Must-Read" by Flavorwire and New York Magazine's "Vulture" Blog

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.

Fueled 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.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Paul Beatty is the author of the novels, Tuff, Slumberland and The White Boy Shuffle, and the poetry collections Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. He was the editor of Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor. In 2016, he became the first American to win the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sellout. In 2017, he was the winner the American Academy of Arts and Letters Literature Award. He lives in New York City.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 24, 2014
    Beatty’s satirical latest (after Slumberland) is a droll, biting look at racism in modern America. At the novel’s opening, its narrator, a black farmer whose last name is Me, has been hauled before the Supreme Court for keeping a slave and reinstituting racial segregation in Dickens, an inner-city neighborhood in Los Angeles inexplicably zoned for agrarian use. When Dickens is erased from the map by gentrification, Me hatches a modest proposal to bring it back by segregating the local school. While his logic may be skewed, there is a perverse method in his madness; he is aided by Hominy, a former child star from The Little Rascals, who insists that Me take him as his slave. Beatty gleefully catalogues offensive racial stereotypes but also reaches further, questioning what exactly constitutes black identity in America. Wildly funny but deadly serious, Beatty’s caper is populated by outrageous caricatures, and its damning social critique carries the day.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from January 1, 2015
    The provocative author of The White Boy Shuffle (1996) and Slumberland (2008) is back with his most penetratingly satirical novel yet.Beatty has never been afraid to stir the pot when it comes to racial and socioeconomic issues, and his latest is no different. In fact, this novel is his most incendiary, and readers unprepared for streams of racial slurs (and hilarious vignettes about nearly every black stereotype imaginable) in the service of satire should take a pass. The protagonist lives in Dickens, "a ghetto community" in Los Angeles, and works the land in an area called "The Farms," where he grows vegetables, raises small livestock and smokes a ton of "good weed." After being raised by a controversial sociologist father who subjected him to all manner of psychological and social experiments, the narrator is both intellectually gifted and extremely street-wise. When Dickens is removed from the map of California, he goes on a quest to have it reinstated with the help of Hominy Jenkins, the last surviving Little Rascal, who hangs around the neighborhood regaling everyone with tales of the ridiculously racist skits he used to perform with the rest of the gang. It's clear that Hominy has more than a few screws loose, and he volunteers to serve as the narrator's slave-yes, slave-on his journey. Another part of the narrator's plan involves segregating the local school so that it allows only black, Latino and other nonwhite students. Eventually, he faces criminal charges and appears in front of the Supreme Court in what becomes "the latest in a long line of landmark race-related cases." Readers turned off by excessive use of the N-word or those who are easily offended by stereotypes may find the book tough going, but fans of satire and blatantly honest-and often laugh-out-loud funny-discussions of race and class will be rewarded on each page. Beatty never backs down, and readers are the beneficiaries. Another daring, razor-sharp novel from a writer with talent to burn.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    October 15, 2014

    Dickens, CA, is so embarrassing yet so inconsequential that it has disappeared from the map. One of its residents is Professor Mee, who teaches sociology at Riverside Community College. As a single parent, he homeschools his son while using him in a radical social science experiment with racial implications that might someday result in a profitable book. After Mee is killed in a police shoot-out, the son draws on what he has learned about sociology to launch a crusade that he hopes will put Dickens back on the map. To bring the town some national attention, he resorts to the shocking means of reinstituting slavery and segregation. While he seems to succeed, his actions ultimately bring him before the U.S. Supreme Court, which must consider the ramifications of the case. VERDICT Beatty (The White Boy Shuffle) creates a wicked satire that pokes fun at all that is sacred to life in the United States, from father-son dynamics right up to the Supreme Court. His story is full of the unexpected, resulting in absurd and hilarious drama.--Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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The Sellout
A Novel
Paul Beatty
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