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I Am Not Sidney Poitier

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,751 ratings  ·  268 reviews

An irresistible comic novel from the master storyteller Percival Everett, and an irreverent take on race, class, and identity in America

I was, in life, to be a gambler, a risk-taker, a swashbuckler, a knight. I accepted, then and there, my place in the world. I was a fighter of windmills. I was a chaser of whales. I was Not Sidney Poitier.

Not Sidney Poitier is an a

Paperback, 234 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Graywolf Press (first published 2009)
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Betsy Robinson
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett
[UPDATE: 1/16/19--see note at the end of this review
Once after dinner, as we sat in front of the television watching an Adventures of Superman rerun, I asked, "Was my father handsome?"

She replied, "Some might say yes."

"Was he smart?" I asked.

She stared at the television. "Why is it that after all the bullets have bounced off Superman's chest, he then ducks when the villain throws the empty gun at him?"

I looked at the television and wondered, knowing als
Sentimental Surrealist
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-ever-ever
Part of this is a great comedic novel, which blends satire (more on that in a minute), absurdism (the dialog between Everett's vision of Ted Turner and Everett's parody of himself are hilarious examples of how much comedic mileage can be gotten out of two bizarre characters acting bizarre around each other), and pop culture riffs (true to the title, you get parodies of at least three Sidney Poitier movies in this book - I picked up on Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The Lilies of the Field and, of ...more
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor
Not Sidney Poitier is orphaned as a boy, but thanks to his mother's wise investment, he is wealthy. He is taken in by Ted Turner, but mostly raises himself. Not Sidney goes on to have many experiences in life that deal with social class and race.

A humorous and weird novel. This satirical book has quirky characters and hilarious dialogue. If you're familiar with Sidney Poitier's films, you'll notice that Not Sidney's life parodies them, especially Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The Defiant Ones,
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor
It's unfortunate that a lot of people read this book thinking it’s going to be a "funny" book. It's not. It's satire. A biting satire on race that could make many a reader squirm. Yes, there is a running joke on “I am not Sidney Poitier and I am Not Sidney Poitier” and you groan every time you see it coming. But even that joke made a statement on individuality and race.

Percival Everett, born in 1956, undoubtedly remembers Sidney Poitier’s movies being beamed into white America’s living rooms in
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Howard by: Betsy Robinson
Thank you, Betsy.
Alexander Hardy
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant damn writing. There's a scene when Not Sidney Poitier has an encounter with some orphaned white kids in the country that had me crying, struggling to get through between fits of laugher on the train. Masterful book, great character development, hilarious dialogue. So glad I discovered Percival Everett's writing because I now want to read everything he's ever written.
Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Damn. Throughout this book I was thinking "this is pretty great, quite clever, poignant" etc etc. And then the last few pages hit me, right in the stomach. Is he Not Sidney Poitier or not Sidney Poitier? Outside of LA, outside of where he and his money are known, the way Not is treated and the situations he finds himself in are appalling. Sidney Poitier's roles included these same (literally, as the novel employs references to so many of his movies - which I found super enjoyable) scenarios. And ...more
Don Hackett
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Or maybe 4 1/2. This is one of the funniest books I have read recently. The setup is a boy named Not Sidney Poitier, orphaned when his mother dies. His mother, though she worked a menial job, had invested her money (including $30,000 from a Worker's Comp settlement) in a little company called Turner Communications; this is one rich orphan. Ted Turner gives the boy a home--not Ted's, but a cabin on the grounds of Turner's estate. He is provided with tutors and caretakers, has the opportunity to c ...more
Margaret Gillette
Dec 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I have no idea what happened but I loved this book. I wish I had someone to explain it to me. Little bits sink in here and there, ferment and then I'll be somewhere random like class or at work and - oh *&&^! I understand that part now.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this book - that is completely beside the point (and this is, therefore, a completely appropriate non-sequitir) is that the character of Ted Turner, who we assume to be Not Ted Turner, is remarkably like me. If you like m
Cheryl Klein
Nov 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book is crazy. It MIGHT be about the arbitrariness of race and fortune and other identities, but there's such a firm commitment to nonsense in these pages (a Morehouse prof named Percival Everett teaches an indecipherable class called The Philosophy of Nonsense) that I'm not sure Percival Everett (the author, that is) even wants me to come to a conclusion. One part Don Quixote, one part Huckleberry Finn, this novel is a patchwork of allusions and genres. I can easily get turned off by such ...more
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama, humor
When a boy is named Not Sidney by his eccentric mother, you can see how this would cause some problems with other kids in the neighborhood and at school. "“What’s your name?” a kid would ask. “Not Sidney,” I would say. “Okay, then what is it?” This usually resulted in Not Sidney getting beaten to a pulp.

When his mother passes away, he discovers that he's inherited a lot of money, she being a major shareholder in Ted Turner's company. Ted, an executor to his mother's will, brings him home to Atla
John Pappas
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A hilarious romp -- probably the funniest novel I've read since Russo's Straight Man, and definitely the funniest "experimental" novel since Barth's Sot-weed Factor. The protagonist of I Am Not Sidney Poitier is a young black man named Not Sidney Poitier who looks just like the actor Sidney Poitier, is "adopted" by Ted Turner, teaches himself how to "Fesmerize" (not Mesmerize) people and is plunged into a series of misadventures that resemble the plots of Sidney Poitier movies. This satire brill ...more
Alex Scales
Nov 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fancyliterature
This is another 3.5 book. But Ted Turner's dialogue gets 5 stars.

You know, I don't know what to say. This is an ambitious novel, and some interesting tricks are being used here, but I'm not sure how well they're working. Everett's novel relies on the reader being capable of catching the references to actual Sidney Poitier novels, as Not Sidney winds up in situations straight out of In The Heat of the Night, The Defiant Ones, etc. otherwise there's a lot of running to google. But even if you get
Apr 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 21st-century
I've found Erasure, Wounded, and now this novel, all in very and impressively different ways unsettling and utterly compelling explorations of problems of identity in relation to class, race, and other social divisions, and the violence bound up with them. This novel unsettles hilariously. The characters of Ted Turner and Percival Everett are terrific. Like Not Sidney, neither of them seem to have found a role they're completely comfortable playing either, but they muddle through cheerfully, rid ...more
Oct 19, 2011 rated it liked it
a hoot and at least a few halves. question for anyone: how true a confession do you think when the everett xter says he didn't like writing ERASURE and didn't like it when he was done with it (226). anyway. devoured this picaresque romp. not quite as funny as i expected but that was probably my/hype's fault.
Jan 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Dan by: Patty and Patrick
Rarely do I come across a book that I truly do not want to end. This book is one of them (the last I can recall prior to this was Lonesome Dove). IaNSP is simply a ton of fun to read.

I've not yet read any of Everett's other works but will certainly be doing so in the coming weeks.
Halley Sutton
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'll be thinking about this one, the ending in particular, a very long time.
Chris Horne
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 12-for-2011
Last Friday, a half hour after I finished reading Percival Everett's "I Am Not Sidney Poitier," the UPS man walked up the stairs on our front porch and laid down a package containing the next book I'm going to read. It's also a Percival Everett novel, "Erasure." I'm already halfway through meaning it's time to place an order for my next Everett work.

Either way, I'm pretty sure he's my favorite living writer now. Not only hilarious but deeply poignant. His wordsmithery is a thing of beauty.

The h
Jamilla Rice
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I finished this yesterday, but was too high on oxy (yes, it is my prescription and it’s legal--sprained ankle) to write the review. Although, it WOULD have been interesting. You could say that I wasn't myself yesterday. Which would have been so fitting, considering the content of this novel.

Bildungsroman, odyssey, social commentary, confessional, fan fiction, picaresque pictorial, call to action . . . this novel does so much, so elegantly, so deftly—sleight of words, is how I'd describe it. So m
Aaron Mcquiston
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graywolf
Not Sidney Poitier, the main narrator in Percival Everett's book, "I Am Not Sidney Poitier" is one of the funniest characters I've read in a long time. After being in the womb for two years, Not Sidney Poitier is born and goes through a tremendous amount of adventure. "I An Not Sidney Poitier" is a road novel that does not get anywhere. Anytime he leaves home, bad things happen, bad things that slightly resemble the plots to Sidney Poitier movies. I caught "In the Heat of the Night", "Guess Who' ...more
Nov 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Another comic masterpiece from Everett. Not quite as consistently funny as Erasure and while a bit experimental not as weird as some of his previous tomes. A short synopsis: A clearly insane young lady living in L.A. claims she is pregnant and 24 months of gestation later give birth to a boy she names Not Sidney Poitier. Oh yeah mom pours over the stock market and has the foresight to buy a very large number of Turner Industry stock at its initial offering. Mama dies when the child is about elev ...more
May 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ginib
Interesting book. Unusual book too. Amazing vocabulary, but one that isn't used to demean the reader.
So what happens when you take several of Portier's movies, give them a bit of a twist, and drop them into a novel about a young man discovering his identity repeatedly by becoming the characters in those movies and finally the star himself? You get this book. Does it work? Well, yes I think so anyway. That's my take on what the author was doing. BTW is Not Sydney possibly a version of Mary Willi
Aug 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Hilarious! I normally read while commuting on the Metro, and I know I looked in-sane laughing out loud at this book. To make matters better, the title sounds so angry, so my laughing must have confused people even more. Although this might have been the funniest book I have ever read, Everett still manages to keep things abstract and deeply study American society, particularly of race relations, even within the Black community. I found the end a bit confusing, but overall, I loved every word of ...more
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Wonderful. Clever, brilliant, and hilarious.
4- 4.5

Will not be my last Everett.

Thanks Patty and Slowrabbit!
Danielle DeSantis
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It has been quite some time that I read something that I didn't want to end.
I have to be honest here; I had absolutely no idea what I was expecting when I checked this out at the library (it was on my reading challenge). This made me completely unprepared for this strange and kind of surreal novel.

Content warnings:
Rape & sexual harrassment
Police corruption & brutality
Racism/anti black racism
Some ableism in the beginning

Main protagonist is black, as are a lot of the main characters

Not Sidney Poitier (yes, the Not is part of his name) ha
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
Not many authors could negotiate the running joke of the main character's name without pounding all the humor out of it, but the talented Mr. Everett is not the average author and actually manages this feat with a kind of wicked grace. As original and funny as any of his other novels I've read, but not my favorite so far, perhaps because of the inclusion of a few too many dream sequences. Yes, they fit in the story well and added to the already semi-surreal atmosphere, but hell, I really do have ...more
Sue Thornquist
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 One of the most creative books I've read for awhile. The character's name is literally Not Sidney (two words, first name) Poitier. So, of course that proves to be tough to answer the usual question,

What's your name?
Not Sidney.
Ok, so not Sidney--what is it?

It's the author's creative play on the black male's plight, and one of his ways of offering commentary on issues of race and class.

Ted Turner is the boy's guardian :) and this provides some hilarious exchanges and mis-communication humor,
Big Al
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
As someone who has never seen a Sidney Poitier film, I was worried I would be missing too many references to fully appreciate this novel... but nope, Everett's weird novel is enough to stand on its own merit. A biting and bizarre satire!
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Percival L. Everett (born 1956) is an American writer and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California.

There might not be a more fertile mind in American fiction today than Everett’s. In 22 years, he has written 19 books, including a farcical Western, a savage satire of the publishing industry, a children’s story spoofing counting books, retellings of the Greek myths

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