Book Review #26: The Sellout by Paul Beatty (2015)

Review: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: The Sellout: A Novel
Author: Paul Beatty
Published: 2015 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York)
Pages: 289 (Hardcover)
Genres: Literary Fiction, Humor, Satire, Race in America
Disclaimers: Book contains strong language and sexual content, recommended for 18+
Link Here

Borrowed copy of The Sellout on top of my favorite blanket

Hello everyone! This week I read the almost incomparable novel, The Sellout by Paul Beatty. This is the first novel I have read by Beatty, and I felt truly shocked throughout reading this one. The Sellout was a sort of genius, brash and humorous narrative about racism in America. But it was highly unexpected.

…You have to ask yourself two questions, Who am I? And how may I become myself?” – Paul Beatty, The Sellout

Do not go into this novel believing this is a politically-correct, eloquent conversation about racism. This book challenges a ‘post-racial America’ with bitter satire and highly clever prose. The narrator is a black man living in the erased fictional town of Dickens in the Los Angeles-area trying to find himself and his purpose. Nicknamed “Bonbon”, our narrator is a farmer and comedian trying to save his town that no one wants to bring back due to city-wide embarrassment by reinstating segregation (and inconsequentially, slavery), landing him in the Supreme Court.

My father had a theory that poor people are the best drivers because they can’t afford to carry car insurance and have to drive like they live, defensively” – Paul Beatty, The Sellout

This novel had me saying ‘oh my god’ out loud to myself several times. Another reviewer on Goodreads described this book as if “Kurt Vonnegut and Dave Chappelle had a baby”, and I agree. The novel read like poetry and comedy perfectly combined. It was not meant to make the reader comfortable, and the writing and story came off almost as pure absurdity. But I believe it was intentional, and I mean that as a compliment. This book is a craftily curated satire about what it means to be black in America. To me, this novel felt like a rejection of the White Gaze from a black voice, and it was wonderfully told.

Daddy never believed in closure. He said it was a false psychological concept. Something invented by therapists to assuage white Western guilt. In all his years of study and practice, he’d never heard a patient of color talk of needing ‘closure’. They needed revenge. They needed distance. Forgiveness and a good lawyer maybe, but never closure. He said people mistake suicide, murder, lap band surgery, interracial marriage, and overtipping for closure, when in reality what they’ve achieved is erasure” – Paul Beatty, The Sellout

Why should you read this book? I recommend this book to anyone who wants to deep dive into the notions of racism in America from a different viewpoint, who also want a dash of satire-like comedy. This book was written by Paul Beatty, a black author who won the Booker Prize in 2016 for this novel among other awards and nominations for his writing, including fiction, non-fiction and poetry. I would read something else by this author.

That’s the problem with history, we like to think it’s a book—that we can turn the page and move the fuck on. But history isn’t the paper it’s printed on. It’s memory, and memory is time, emotions, and song. History is the things that stay with you” – Paul Beatty, The Sellout

Again, his writing is stellar. I almost gave this book 5⭐️ based solely on the writing, which hit the mark and beyond on quality, enjoyment and ability. This book is a ride itself, and challenges the reader’s viewpoint. The metaphors and narratives are dripping with humor and creativity. At first, this book seems brash, but I encourage the reader to keep going, because the story heads in unpredictable and entertaining directions.

I give this one a 4 out of 5!


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