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The Sellout

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  61,821 ratings  ·  6,502 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 Chine ...more
Hardcover, 289 pages
Published 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Sylvie Go with the flow and don't expect to grasp every reference. it is hard work, I agree, but it is quite clever, in parts. …moreGo with the flow and don't expect to grasp every reference. it is hard work, I agree, but it is quite clever, in parts. (less)
Kamran Rahman The novel is more concerned with illustrating the perceived advantages of slavery for Hominy - it gives him focus, value and status in a society where…moreThe novel is more concerned with illustrating the perceived advantages of slavery for Hominy - it gives him focus, value and status in a society where he otherwise has none. The central question of the book appears to be "How do we make progress on issues of race, given the current disadvantages suffered by black americans". To explore this, two absurdist positions are set up - Hominy wants to return to the certainty of the past. Foy wants to re-write history. For Hominy there can be no progress in issues of social justice and that is why he wants to be a slave. Hominy considers Foy's battle to be futile. He has lived through extreme racism in the past, and he liked it.(less)

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Jessica Woodbury
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
If Kurt Vonnegut and Dave Chappelle had a baby and really messed with its head, it would write this novel. I hope Paul Beatty takes that as a compliment because it's meant that way.

This is some seriously biting satire. You know it right away, since it begins with the main character, a black man, before the Supreme Court because he's charged with keeping a slave. Most of the novel is a flashback, showing us how the protagonist not only kept a slave but attempted to re-segregate his formerly all-b
Glenn Sumi
Jan 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: booker-winners
Paul Beatty’s novel is a savage satire about a “post-racial America,” and it points out how absurd that notion really is.

The black narrator, Bonbon, grew up in a “disappeared” L.A. suburb – once an “agrarian ghetto,” called Dickens – where he was subjected to his father’s sociological experiments about race.

After his father is “accidentally” killed by the LAPD (see? This is some serious shit), he wants to reintroduce slavery and, gradually, segregation, first in buses and then in a school (ditto
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
As an urban commuter I felt that pulling a book out with lawn jockeys on the cover should come with a disclaimer. Hey everybody, it’s meant to be – you know – ironic. It’s written by a black guy; it’s satire. And just so you know, my iPhone doesn’t have one word of Breitbart News on it.

Satires, to me, are like hoppy craft beers. The natural skew to the bitter side should be balanced out for optimal flavor. Paul Beatty’s deft touch with a joke made the astringency you’d expect from charges of rac
Sean Barrs
The Sellout is a fun novel full of humour and many moments of bitter irony. The tone is angry, full of frustration and seething with sarcasm, but it is also repetitive to a fault.

After around thirty pages I felt like I’d read everything this novel had to offer. It was abundantly clear that the remainder would be pretty much the same thing, an author satirising the realities of Black American life through using several clever and creative narrative devices. After a while it began to grow so very
I bought a copy of this book in great condition for 35 cents, and somehow that wasn't even in the top 5 best parts of my reading experience.

Thankful for library sales and thankful for Paul Beatty.

This book is whip-smart, hilarious, and unlike anything I've ever read or ever will read again. It's a literary satire that manages to achieve the trifecta: well-written and genuinely funny, with something brilliant to say.

I don't want to write anymore. Why waste time reading my words about Paul Beatty
Felice Laverne

This entire novel, especially the prologue, reminded me of the ramblings of someone’s old grandpa rocking on the front porch of his clapboard home. I can only assume this is exactly what Beatty was going for, by the direction the novel ended up taking, but I felt like I was reading—no, sifting through—a bunch of nonsense I just wanted to be done with. And a lot of this read like an ultra-liberal excuse to spout out the n-word (hard er, mind you) as both a starting point, comma and full stop t
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Satire is a difficult genre to assess and review, particularly when it is so tightly bound to a culture one does not share. On the positive side, this book is often very funny, and is full of ideas and snipes at deserving targets. Over the length of a novel, though, the tone is somewhat relentless, and the story does not seem to have enough weight to sustain the interest - it seems more like a series of set pieces. Not a book to read if you are easily offended either, but the issues Beatty addre ...more
John Pappas
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Imagine Nina Simone singing "Mississippi Goddam" reincarnated as an atomic bomb that
explodes high enough for all of America to see, while Mark Twain chuckles and says "I told ya so," from the relative safety of a bunker deep in the canon of American literature. That's nowhere near how incendiary, biting, acerbic, witty, smart, funny, explosive, hard-hitting and revelatory Beatty's satire is. The first 50 pages had me wondering if he could sustain this voice, this force for another page...the nex
Joachim Stoop
Dec 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I don't recall reading a book which I loved so much in the beginning and was soooo fed up with in the end. It's too much of too much. There are about zero normal sentences and that was very tiring. It reminded me of Steve Toltz' Quicksand. I couldn't keep up with avalanches and avalanches of wit & satire. It's a damn shame, 'cuz I laughed out loud the first chapters.
I also think the book is better for native speakers (lots of linguistic humor) and if you live in the States (lots of inside jokes,
Dec 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
”…when I did what I did, I wasn’t thinking about inalienable rights, the proud history of our people. I did what worked, and since when did a little slavery and segregation ever hurt anybody, and if so, so fucking be it.”
My copy of this novel is spiked with tabs marking something deeply insightful, stabbingly funny, or needing revisiting. There is simply too much to point to: Beatty must have been saving up observations about race relations in America to get so much into this relatively short no
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
One star for creativity, another for brilliant, innovative, hysterical prose, and a third for waking America up with a slap upside our "post-racial" national head. Every sentence in this novel is a combination of "Um, YES, that is so true!!" and "I can't believe I've never thought of it that way before!"

Minus a star for lack of compelling plot. Beatty gets so lost in his ridiculous subplots that I stopped caring what happened next. Will Dickens be saved from obsolescence? Will the Dum Dum Intell
Aug 29, 2016 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jibran by: Booker longlist '16
Shelves: american
Subtitle: A mini dictionary of the oddities and eccentricities of Black America mixed in with a bevy of pop culture obscurities interspersed with some brilliant flashes of satire by Paul Beatty.

For the sake modesty, let me say that I'm in two minds whether the special outweighs the ordinary and vice versa. But there's no doubt that the book is designed as a commercial product for timely consumption given the rise in racial tensions in the US in the last few years. But this alone has never been a
How does a white, late 50’s, Australian come to read a satire on race relations in the USA, an area he has little knowledge about in said subject?

I had recently read the brilliant A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James and was telling “all and sundry” what a superb read it was. I could recall a fair bit of the heady days of Marley and the powerful political fallout in Jamaica back in the late 70’s. I had got Exodus on release so was not in new territory subject wise. The writing and
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Creating History

Whatever your conscious attitude toward race, and whatever your race, your self-image will be shaken by Paul Beatty's work. And whatever criticism that could be offered about the work has already been addressed within it. To coin a phrase: this changes everything. It cuts through everybody's bunk - white people's, black people's, sociologists', politicians', journalists', not forgetting novelists' major bunk-lode. Beatty's point is clear: the world of race in America is a lot mor
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-authors
2019 review: Still not my jam. I gave it a 2nd shot and actually finished this time, but just didn't connect with this style. Satire is very hit or miss, and this was a miss for me.
2016 review: DNF'd it. Not in the mood for this right now. Will hopefully return to it in the future.
This isn't literary fiction so much as extended stand-up comedy. The sort that happens when Stewart Lee spins one of his crazed, spiralling stories that lasts half the set; yes it's political, but also surreal and vicious and somehow sympathetic, and just too fucking funny to dismiss as worthy or heavy-handed. The Sellout is not your negative-stereotype dreary litfic Booker winner. Those people who normally see a "Winner of the Man Booker Prize" sticker as a radioactivity hazard label? Plenty of ...more
(3.5) This is such an outrageous racial satire that I kept asking myself how Beatty got away with it. Not only did he get away with it, he won a National Book Critics Circle Award, and now the Booker Prize. The novel opens at the U.S. Supreme Court, where the narrator has been summoned to defend himself against a grievous but entirely true accusation: he has reinstituted slavery and segregation in his hometown of Dickens, California. All the old stereotypes of African Americans are here, many of ...more
Michael Ferro
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As good a satire as satires get. THE SELLOUT is simply one of the best books I've read in years. Hilarious, thoughtful, and necessary, it's a novel that gets better and sharper with each turn of the page. Beatty's wit and wry acumen makes his prose a delight to read and his critical eye for our insular American condition highlights the many problems involving race in our society.

Make 'em laugh and make 'em think, then you got 'em. Required reading for 2018 and beyond.
Lee Klein
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Audacity, execution, authority, oomph, heft, humor -- the most enjoyable, truly enlightened, contemporary novel originally written in the English language I've read in a long, long time. I read some of the author's first novel after it came out back when I lived in Brooklyn and a friend recommended it but I didn't make my way too far through it, thinking it too derivative of Ishmael Reed, whose Flight to Canada and Mumbo Jumbo I read in college and loved. Now, the influence still seems there, th ...more
Peter Boyle
"This may be hard to believe, coming from a black man, but I've never stolen anything."

So begins the first page in this scathing satire of race in America. Our narrator is up before the Supreme Court, charged with attempting to reinstate slavery and segregation in his hometown of Dickens, a rundown neighborhood of Los Angeles. His accomplices are Hominy Jenkins, a former child star of the Little Rascals, and Marpessa Dawson, a foul-mouthed bus driver and the object of our hero's affections. But
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Unmitigated Blackness is coming to the realization that as fucked up and meaningless as it all is, sometimes it's the nihilism that makes life worth living."
- Paul Beautty, The Sellout


THIS novel. THIS one. It snuck up on my white ass and turned everything inside out. It is easily one of my favorite books I've read the last couple years. Funny. Sad. Touching. Radical. Poetic. I will actually frame this all into a real review soon, but for now, just know this novel seems to combine the go-for-bro
Lauren Cecile
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Outrageously irreverent, quirky, challenging and profound! An amazingly imaginative racial parody!
Betsy Robinson
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy cow! I don’t know Latin, research psychology, California, every episode of The Little Rascals, and I’m white. So I don’t pretend to understand the tsunami of references that come so fast it takes your breath away in this satire about—

A brief and necessary digression: My own writing is sometimes rabidly politically incorrect and has been known to poke people who take offense at that. But I’m a neophyte compared to Paul Beatty. And although I love his kind of daring, freefalling, Macy’s Thank
I read The Sellout for a book club. I'm new to the book club, so it felt important to read The Sellout from cover to cover so that I could prove myself a worthy member of my new book club. I almost made it, but I just couldn't get past the 85% mark on my kindle. By then I had caught wind that I wasn't the only one in the book club struggling with The Sellout. So I showed up, had a lovely time, talked very little about the book, decided I would stick to the club, and also decided that I would giv ...more
Sep 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
I certainly credit Beatty for letting the world know how bad racism is in our 'post-racism' society, but 50 or so pages of this rant was all I could take. I was looking forward to the 'comic' novel this has been praised as being, but unfortunately I found it to be trite and tiresome. Literary humor should sneak up and surprise you, even when you know it's coming, not continuously attempt to hit you over your head with itself. I understand this is a minority opinion, but it's mine and I'll stick ...more
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
As I finish this book, I sit in an airport, with CNN muted on the television above me. Baltimore. Riots. Race. It somehow seems like a fitting pair. It is worth noting, the Baltimore riots are substantially less humorous than Beatty's book.

In a time where race in America is at an absolute boiling point, Paul Beatty comes along with a book so bold and brave, people will see it as either absolutely repugnant, or undeniably brilliant. I'm in the latter group.

First thing first. This book is hilario
Apr 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Rhapsodical Reflections and Uproarious Ramblings on Racism in "Post-Racial" America

Re: Man Booker Prize, 2016
Consuetus Lector: "Blimey! In a manner of speaking, unbloodybelievable. This busts belief's bollocks, lampoons logic, cold-cocks common sense. Need I go on?"

This novel mostly reads like the rhapsodical ramblings and reflections of a racially righteous rebel challenging the status quo.

With mordant wit, incisive satirical spins and terrific comic timing, Paul Beatty ingeniously unmask
While I was mulling this one over, and its satirical suggestion that a kind of apartheid might be the way to address American racism, I was reading J.M. Coetzee's book which touches on a similar subject in Africa, Summertime. Quite a pair of prize-winning books!

Clever, witty, American but universal satire. I started this, got annoyed because I was bored, so I read something else. When I came back to it, I started over and enjoyed the ride.

I just immersed myself in Beatty’s unbelievable
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2020
There’s nothing surprising or uncanny about this novel from 2015 being a timely read. That’s the ‘systemic’ part of systemic racism: it’s always there, even if it manifests in different ways.

Five years ago, the manifestations led to The Sellout exploding the myth of a post-racial, ‘integrated’ America in the late Obama years. In that sense, The Sellout is a product of its time, as Beatty uses his considerable wit to skewer ideas that are in no need of confutation today.

It is a comic novel, ofte
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it

3.5 stars

In 2016, "The Sellout" won the 'National Book Critics Circle Award' and the 'Man Booker Prize.' The satiric novel gives us a peek at what it's like to be black in America - a serious topic, but told with a humorous spin.

The narrator, nicknamed Bonbon, lives in 'Dickens', a black town adjacent to Los Angeles, California. Bonbon's neighborhood, called The Farms, permits crops and livestock - so Bonbon grows pot, raises sheep and goats, and rides a horse around the community.

Bonbon also
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Paul Beatty (born 1962 in Los Angeles) is a contemporary African-American author. Beatty received an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College and an MA in psychology from Boston University. He is a 1980 graduate of El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, California.

In 1990, Paul Beatty was crowned the first ever Grand Poetry Slam Champion of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. One of the prizes f

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“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.” 124 likes
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