2015 National Book Critic's Circle Award for Fiction
2016 Man Booker Prize
2016 Morning News Tournament of Books Winner
Clever and absurd, The Sellout is one of the most unusual books I've read in years. "A biting satire" is a very fitting description: this book has teeth, and you're not going to make it through it without seriously reconsidering the state of contemporary society. Don't worry, though — it's also hilarious. Recommended By Ashleigh B., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"The Sellout is brilliant. Amazing. Like demented angels wrote it." Sarah Silverman
"I am glad that I read this insane book alone, with no one watching, because I fell apart with envy, hysterics, and flat-out awe. Is there a more fiercely brilliant and scathingly hilarious American novelist than Paul Beatty?" Ben Marcus
"Paul Beatty has always been one of smartest, funniest, gutsiest writers in America, but The Sellout sets a new standard. It's a spectacular explosion of comic daring, cultural provocation, brilliant, hilarious prose, and genuine heart." Sam Lipsyte
"Beatty, author of the deservedly highly praised The White Boy Shuffle (1996), here outdoes himself and possibly everybody else in a send-up of race, popular culture, and politics in today's America....Beatty hits on all cylinders in a darkly funny, dead-on-target, elegantly written satire....[The Sellout] is frequently laugh-out-loud funny and, in the way of the great ones, profoundly thought provoking. A major contribution." Mark Levin, Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Paul Beatty is the author of three novels — Slumberland, Tuff, and The White Boy Shuffle — and two books of poetry: Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. He is the editor of Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor. He lives in New York City.