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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  2,090 ratings  ·  405 reviews
One of a few works of satire written by African American women, Oreo is an uproariously funny novel about relations between African Americans and Jews. It is as fresh and outrageous today as when it was first published in 1974.

Born of a Jewish father and black mother, Oreo grows up in Philadelphia with her grandparents while her mother tours with a theatrical group. Soon a
Paperback, Northeastern Library of Black Literature, 212 pages
Published September 22nd 2000 by Northeastern University Press (first published 1974)
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Terri I agree with Joseph and Katie comments. It is pretty warped, satiric, and of its time. I am enjoying it but lots going past me ...

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MJ Nicholls
Reissued in 2015 from New Directions, this early-seventies punnilinguistic mistresspiece deserves a broader readership. An anarchic comedic romp, abounding in ambidextrous wordplay, mixing black and Jewish slang with technical and mathematical language, this novel is a brassy performance, sadomasochistically whip-smart, ferociously intelligent, and unafraid to wipe the smug complicity off your face with a crude or revolting image. Epic in scope (structured around the odyssey of Theseus), Oreo is ...more
Eliot Parulidae
May 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comedy, fiction
1. Half-black, half-Jewish female protagonist who's brilliant, tough, and empowered.
2. Vocabulary-expanding; full of language games and puns.
3. Lots of insane, almost magical realist stuff happens, but since the plot is anchored by parallels to the story of Theseus and the Minotaur it never spins out of control.
4. Out-of-nowhere Saul Bellow references.
5. Entertaining satire of New York life in the '70s.
6. No, really, there's a pimp named Parnell with a pink velvet suit, a bolo tie, and
Jun 12, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-read, usa
A picaresque novel from the 70's with a Black Jewish female protagonist who roams the streets of New York sporting a cane while seeking her father (much like the mythological Theseus)? Yup, journalist, writer an comedy author Fran Ross has created a wild, experimental mixture of genres and text forms - from menu cards to mathematical formulas - to convey the nature of multiple discrimination and find new ways to write minority empowerment. 16-year-old Christine a.k.a. Oreo, accused of being blac ...more
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-writers
Google wasn’t around when Oreo was first published in 1974. You are hit with Greek mythology and Yiddish right away and just the look of the pages of Fran Ross’s novel about an Afro-Jewish girl’s quest to find her white father can discourage or intimidate. Oreo, by an African-American writer who died in 1985, promises a degree of difficulty; the chapter titles, paragraph titles (“Helen and Oreo shmooz”), different font sizes, a graph showing shades of blackness, letters, an elaborate five-page m ...more
Dec 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fran Ross' Oreo is an incredible novel that lays the common overlooked magic of racial and cultural mixings, assimilation and multiple identity bare. Its humor, irony, satire and sarcasm has an incendiary, sociological truth, as the best stand-up comedy used to do, and sometimes still does. The fact that Ross was a writer for Richard Pryor is abundantly in evidence, though it would be decades before such Black women comedians would light up the stage and our consciousness. Ross' timing is impecc ...more
AmberBug com*
This book was too smart for me. I was left feeling pretty "lowly" for not "getting it". I enjoyed the parts that clicked but most of the book was chock full of fanciful language that I didn't have the time to bother looking up each sentence (just to feel included in the joke). I completely understand why others love this book, because when it clicked... it was definitely great. I just wish I had more knowledge of the slang or knew going into this book how much work it would take to fully "get it ...more
lark benobi
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved it when I first read it June 2015, loved it more this time. I laughed so loudly as I read it that my family kept thinking I'd broken my toe or something. Not just a great book. It's one of a kind. ...more
Aug 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A hell of a lot of fun but also, as it should be, cheekily dealing with a lot of not-fun, fucked up shit about power and race and gender and all the rest.

But if puns don't float your proverbial, and if your patience for playing is fraying, don't bother
Peter Landau
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite people are women and my favorite women are smart women and my favorite smart women are funny smart women, and Fran Ross is that and more. Her only novel, OREO, came out in 1974 and was forgotten almost immediately. Though it and some spec scripts got her out to Hollywood to write for an ill-fated Richard Pryor TV show. When that fell through she returned to New York and languished in low-rung publishing until her early death in the 1985. She was saving up to write another novel and w ...more
lark benobi
This is one of the smartest, funniest, most original books I've ever read. Wildly inventive; it reminded me more of Kurt Vonnegut than any other contemporary African American woman's writing. ...more
My mom bought me this hardcover, perhaps thinking it was appropriate for an 11 year old, when I was 11. I read it and LOVED it, while understanding zero of the implications or exactly how incredibly before-her-time Fran Ross was. I still own that hardcover book, but I bought myself a copy of the Kindle version to have Danzy Senna's excellent Foreword on hand forever. I found myself highlighting nearly every single sentence in her discussion of this book.

Oreo has all the hallmarks of a postmoder
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you want something different, read this book. If you love language and word games, read this book. If you're a fan of sharp funny satire, read this book. If you want a novel inspired by/based on mythology but don't want another YA retelling, read this book. ...more
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
so far ahead of its time it's painful to think about. funnier than ulysses. smarter than your smart shelf. both the danzy senna foreword and the harryette mullen afterword are great to have in the new directions edition. the afterword has a good deal of originally researched biographic detail and mullen's scholarship was what brought the book back from obscurity for the Northeastern University Press reprint in 2000.

some links:

the Danzy Senna foreword as it appeared in NYer:
Oreo” was published se
Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-books
okay, this is maybe going to sound weird... but i felt a lot of joy coming from this book. i only hope ross had as much delight in writing it as i had in reading it.

for sure it's a fantastical story - a retelling of theseus, through a female (and feminist), teenaged main character whose long-absent father is a jewish white guy trying to make it big in the acting world, and whose mother is a black woman, also mostly absent, musically talented, and obsessed with creating mathematical equations. i
Sep 18, 2015 marked it as not-now  ·  review of another edition
Hee-Haw for intellectuals. Highly recommended if you're the kind of person who finds the merest reference to anything Judaic or related to Jewish culture inherently funny. Oh my, she mentioned a delicatessen! Wow, she knows what Purim is! Hey, she used two Yiddish words in the same sentence! And she's black!

Same goes for Black humor, inbred-Southerner humor, or any other ethnic- or regional-stereotype humor.

Additionally, if you are razzle dazzled by books that digress a little and include crude
Never Without a Book
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Oreo by Fran Ross is the story of the biracial daughter of a Black woman and Jewish father, a man named Samuel Schwartz, who disappeared when she was an infant, leaving behind only a note that told her to later seek him and the mystery of her birth. As an adult Oreo leaves Philadelphia and sets out on a quest to New York City in search of Sam Schwartz, she finds instead several sharing that name in the phone book. Soon Oreo is pulled into a ‘Labyrinth’ of sorts as she searches for her father.
Conor Ahern
Got this on a recommendation from a good friend who tends to share my sense of humor, love of puns, and affinity for cultural quirks. This was definitely enjoyable, and had many of the best, most humorous aspects of The Sellout. I think I may have been handicapped a bit by the fact that I wasn't really familiar with the legends of Theseus on which this book is based. Because of this, interactions and scenes that may have been exact analogues ended up seeming a bit spatchcocked, and the book caro ...more
A baffling, extremely literate, often really funny novel from the mid-70s, a kinda slapstick, satirical narrative which plays around with Yiddish, black slang and with the written word itself. So apparently it's based on the myth of Theseus (which I'm not up on), but in this case about an African American girl going in search of her white Jewish father..the character of Oreo is super great by the way. I think this is an important social document with tons of spunk and wit, having said that I als ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
Bailed a fifth of the way in. It’s good for me to try a satirical novel every once in a while to reconfirm that I absolutely loathe satire.
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel was an unexpected delight, easily one of my favorites of 2015.

Oreo, while somewhat modernist and experimental in format, is at its heart a story about a girl on a quest: finding her father. Along for the ride, we are introduced to her extended family, friends, and neighbors, and the richness and vitality in those relationships drives the story. The depicted African-American and Jewish cultural elements were harder for me to follow -- being neither -- but they added authenticity to th
Jul 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
Another lady-book to convince the fanboys of Helen Dewitt's The Last Samurai (and, by extension, Ulysses) that women not only make great authors, too, but can spin contemporary-minded mythic gold out of ancient misogynist straw as well as any Joyce.

Witty, erudite, playful, fun, and whip-smart, Oreo (the book and the character) was an absolute joy to spend time with. I found her much more enthralling (and present) company than inscrutable, wonky Ludo from The Last Samurai, and Ross's sheer brilli
As Smith-Jones pointed out, whitey was beyond help. Chuck did not groove on crime in the streets, the way black people did; he did not dig getting his head whipped, his house robbed, his wife raped, the way black people did; he was not really into getting his jollies over his youngsters' popping pills, tripping out, or shooting up, the way black people did. Such uptight, constipated people should not be allowed to mingle with decent, pleasure-loving black folk. That was the true story, but of
Kelly Lynn Thomas
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a retelling of the Theseus myth, where Theseus is a half-Jewish, half-black girl from Philadelphia. It's set in the 1970s, and follows the titular character's quest to find her Jewish father. She saves puppies, liberates women, and kicks up lots of trouble on her way.

This isn't a "normal" novel--there are menus, quizzes, quotes, and other ephemera inserted throughout, and they all add to the book's hilariousness.
Jun 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: hahaha, nyc, fiction
Incredibly creative; all of the Ishmael Reed comparisons are very apt. Fran Ross also reminded me of Charles Portis with her similarly matter-of-fact sense of humor coupled with the ability to move on from jokes with ease. She is just so damn funny that the next joke is always just as good. And the way she writes New York is awesome! I love when people pick on the various absurd New York-isms. She even pointed out the always funny Sixth-Avenue-being-renamed-Avenue-of-the-Americas-for-some-reason ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

This novel is a joy to read and despite being published back in 1974, seems entirely modern if it wasn’t for the pay phones and typewriters.

Oreo is an intelligent, kickass, wisecracking, half Jewish, half African American teenager who is as comfortable speaking Yiddish as Ebonics, reading the classics as being street smart and asserting her place in the world without even trying. Her nickname comes, not from the black on the outside, white on the inside stereotype of someone who is sw
Aug 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have to admit that I initially found this a bit inaccessible due to the heavy use of Yiddish. I probably could have slipped by if it had been, say Spanish, but for this Texas lady, my only exposure has been what's bled into common vernacular via TV. It turns out that the google translate app doesn't do Yiddish in English alphabet, so I was stuck looking up the words in an online dictionary and was dismayed to find that time and again I had failed to guess the correct meaning from context. I fo ...more
B. Rule
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Pretty much every review or essay on this picaresque novel notes that it is ahead of its time and full of code-switching. Both of those things are true. However, the true joy of this book is just how amazingly funny it is. Short of Joyce, I don't think I've ever read such wonderful puns, wordplay, and shaggy dog stories. The book is a loose adaptation of the story of Theseus, scrambled all to hell with post-modern pastiche and assemblage, African-American and Jewish signifiers, and superfly supe ...more
Shari Strong
Relentlessly funny, sometimes crude, frequently confusing. It reminded me a bit of A Confederacy of Dunces. I loved the puns, the wordplay, the satire, the humor, the brilliant, kick-ass heroine. But a lot of the Yiddish words, references to Black and Jewish culture, and (I’m guessing) 1970s references went right over my head, leaving me with the sense that I lacked the contextual understanding needed to get a lot of the jokes. In many ways, this felt like a college lit assignment—not necessaril ...more
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I heard about this years ago on an NPR episode of "You Must Read This." I finally got around to actually reading it and I'm so glad I did. I lol'd more than I have in awhile - in addition to the book being experimental and Joycean, it is very funny. Funny and feminist and satirical about race and identity. I loved it. ...more
Mar 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
I admire this book, but the endless word games were a bit much for me. I tend to find that this type of verbal fireworks distances me emotionally from characters, and that happened here.

Still, a fascinating and unique book, and I loved the glimpse of the bad old 70's New York of my childhood.
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Fran Ross was an African American author best known for her novel Oreo.

Born on June 25, 1935, in Philadelphia, she was the eldest daughter of Gerald Ross, a store clerk, and Bernatta Bass Ross, a welder. Recognized for her scholastic, artistic and athletic talents, she earned a scholarship to Temple University after graduating from Overbrook High School at the age of 15.

Ross graduated from Temple

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