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The White Boy Shuffle
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The White Boy Shuffle

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  1,860 ratings  ·  199 reviews
Paul Beatty's hilarious and scathing debut novel is about Gunnar Kaufman, an awkward, black surfer bum who is moved by his mother from Santa Monica to urban West Los Angeles. There, he begins to undergo a startling transformation from neighborhood outcast to basketball superstar, and eventually to reluctant messiah of a "divided, downtrodden people."
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 4th 2001 by Picador (first published 1996)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mar 31, 2008 Nomy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nomy by: dusty, beth stinson
this book is crazy. i just put it down so his voice is still strong in my head, i can hear exactly what he would say about my review, in fact he basically already said it in his book... whiteys praying for their black poet-god to absolve them of their sins, crying "i understand! i finally understand!" paul beatty is hilarious. and smart. and deep and loving even if he only wants you to catch glimpses of his whole heart when he's just about to sprint away and leave you in the dust. but it's there ...more
Poignant. Roller-coaster of lyrical language, words that kept me going to the dictionary and references from Greek mythology to modern civil rights history amid the hyperbolic tale of the protagonist's disjointed upbringing and clashes with societal norms and pervasive cultural legacies. Still comprehending how this book affected me, to say the least I could hardly put it down.

Highly recommended. I could pick it up and read it again already.
I wanted to love this book. Thinking back on the elements of it that worked and the playful language that resonated with its themes and content, I still want to love this book. But, ugh. . . I just don't. I don't even really like it. I don't hate it. I guess I am mostly just severely disappointed with it.

There were moments, strong moments that I hoped would blossom into something more than a sketchy, jokey run through Gunnar's life, but they never developed. The prologue and introduction were so
This lyrical, poetic, and otherworldly tale of being a Black male in America had me alternating between states of hysterical laughter and melancholy. Every line was funny but sad. Gunnar, the protagonist, had me on a roller coaster of emotions with his clever ghetto life metaphors and his painful realizations that the perennial struggle against white supremacy is an exercise in futility. That futility begs the question of how a person of color is to escape the hopelessness, sense of defeat and f ...more
Phil Jackson gave this book to Kobe Bryant. I stumbled upon it in Engl472. It does not need praise. Infinite Jest squeezed into 200 odd pages with a message that makes Aaron McGruder look like Wayne Brady. Everything you ever need in a book is here: a Gang of Four reference, suicide, a Japanese Mail Order bride, slavery/basketball. If you're tempted to say that Beatty is better than Ellison and Baldwin fused with some Morrison on top, the book will still eat you alive and leave you painting a ta ...more
Simon A. Smith
Despite really wanting to appreciate this book, I strongly disliked it. The problem is that I never started caring about the narrator. The author asks us to believe that the main character is too cool for school, too smart for the neighborhood, too smug for bullshit and too righteous to ever admit defeat. How can readers appreciate a character or relate to a character like that? My answer is... they can't.

Along with the story being unbelievable, I also felt like it was a little insulting to the
Jan 24, 2008 Russell rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who hasn't read it yet
This is my favorite book that no one else has read; I recommend it to people constantly.

It's lovingly, compellingly detailed despite being slightly larger-than-life. (The protagonist's best friend never, ever misses a shot.) It's intensely personal and soaringly metaphorical; scathing, incendiary, imaginative, observational and, oh yes, hilarious.

Every sentence crackles-- I found myself putting it down to catch my breath occasionally.

Oh, and it will probably change your position about at least
I started out hating this book, but by the time I was done I loved it. It's why I think of Christopher Walken when I see the moon.
Ashley Lauren
*** Almost spoiler alert... maybe a foreshadowing alert?***

This book was dancing right at the 5 star range for me for the first 3/4. It is FUNNY. And then just when you're cracking up the hardest Beatty will hit you with a well placed one-liner that brings you back to your senses and makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with this world. I adore the way he talked to his mom. Hysterical.

But, obviously, you'll see that I'm rating it only 3 stars. Why the down grade? Because after that first 3/4
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I originally read this in 8th grade. It wasn't assigned (if you read this book you'll see no school would assign this book).

The discussions in this book between friends are intimate, relatable, and accessible. The story is a little crazy, and if I read this now I'd probably only give it 4.5. Still, it's a great book.

The book is hilarious, touching, sentimental, serious, angst-driven, and socially conscious all at once. I still remember my favorite parts (the only part seared into my mind that di
I really liked this book, and I discovered it through Goodreads! I was looking for a book to read on vacation, and this one came up as a recommendation for me. Good to know the algorithm works.

This book was different than anything I've read in a while. It is realistic - sort of. All kinds of wierdnesses pop up throughout the story that are exaggerated versions of things that could happen in real life and sometimes the story gets just plain fanciful. Parts of the book read like it was written in
The Oscar Wao of the 90s. Brilliant.
There is no way that Junot Diaz wasn't influenced by this book.

I only take off a star because of the suicide theme at the end. I understand the concept of taking back power and autonomy, of suicide as the ultimate protest. I also understand that it is all meant as satire. Still, it took away from the energy and vibrancy of the rest of the book that I loved so, so much.
May 14, 2008 T.J. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people of color, anyone with a sense of humour
Recommended to T.J. by: Professor Widener
Shelves: negritude
I love this book far more than humanly necessary. White Boy Shuffle speaks greatly to ethnic stereotypes, satirically skewering perceptions left and right with an increasingly ridiculous narrative. The book goes from the surfer-dominated West L.A. to the inner=city to the wilds of East Coast university life, and manages to be witty and poignant and bizarre all at once. Hiliarous read.
Even though this book is nothing like the types of books I like to read, I kind of enjoyed it. It was very funny! But came to a depressing conclusion. A lot of things confused me about this book, but at least it wasn't one of those books that make me wonder why I decided to major in English. It's probably one of the better books I had to read for my Black Novel class.
Cydne B
A must read for the Brutha/Sistahood of Black folk who grew up oddly tolerated by white people and routinely rejected by their own based on speech patterns, dress codes, music tastes, and reading ability. And there's more...stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination under one nation...I commit myself to read this book every other year.
brilliant book. will read all of his others. funny and insightful memoir.

"The people of Hillside treat society the way society treats them. Strangers and friends are suspect and guilty until proven innocent. Instant camaraderie beyond familial ties does not exist. It takes more than wearing the same uniform to be accepted among one's ghetto peers. The German spies in those late night world war 2 movies who tried to infiltrate u.s army units by memorizing baseball trivia and learning to chew gum
Julia Brown
Gunnar Kaufman is the "funny, cool, black guy" on a quest to acclimate when his mother moves the family to a new neighborhood. He writes poetry, discovers his unusual talent for basketball, and gives his eighth grade class (and us) a detailed account of his unusual family tree.

When Gunnar's about to graduate high school, there's a left turn. A *sharp* left turn. Things go a bit funny. Gunnar leaves the west coast for Boston. After a thought-provoking, intense speech, the story finds its path ag
The book wavers between absurd-reality to absurd-absurd. Now and then I was wondering "Wait, did he mean that literally or figuratively?" (There are a lot of random and shocking pronouncements). But the narrative does keep moving forward and I was constantly wondering what would happen next - how it would end.

The author and the main character are both poets, and there are several poems included in the story. My favorite part was the character of Scoby, a savant of basketball and early jazz who b
Arturo Ballesteros
Mar 13, 2007 Arturo Ballesteros rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Caroline
I've been privy to the "what does it mean to be a person of color" conversation on many occasions. To POC, it's a belabored issue without resolution. To those white friends who've been subjected to my ramblings on how growing up on the border imprints one with an indelible and symbolic dividing line right down the middle of your personality, taste in food, music, even your political disposition, it's just another confusing topic.

Beatty deftly delves into the substance of the POC "Who and what am
Sep 30, 2010 Shawn marked it as to-read
This has been on my "Currently Reading" list since I endeavored to make it my current read a month or so ago. I've not decided, yet, whether I will give up trying to get into this or not. My initial feeling as that this novel suffers from what I call "The Maya Angelou/Spike Lee Syndrome" -- a convoluted, unintelligible, confusing piece of work that is in reality crap (for lack of a better word), but critics and others have deemed it "genius" and are too afraid to be counted among the dissenting ...more
One of the funniest books I've ever read. I owe finding this book to author Michael Chabon, whose Telegraph Ave. I hated so much that I made it a point to seek more authenticity in the voicing of people of color.

Sharp and satirical, this is poet Beatty's ode to growing up in contemporary America.

Gunnar Kaufman is the voice of his people, and a voice that everyone should read.
Thelonious Legend
Um wow! The prose in this book is brilliant and amazing. There are writers and there are artist and to me Paul Beatty is an artist. How he could weave such a poetic story about the struggle and absurdity of urban life weighted down by ubiquity of race is the definition of talent. Kudos.
Beatty is one deep motha. I've read this book numerous times now and I have to say this novel is one of the most powerful pieces of literature I've ever read. Intricate storyline and an exceptional usage of the human language- his vocabulary is STELLAR! Must read for sure!
Man, I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The beginning was particularly difficult as I felt the author was trying too hard to be witty and it was just coming off as forced. I much more preferred the back half of the novel as he seemed to tone it down and I got a bit more of a grasp of the characters. The story at times was a bit abstract and tongue in cheek so I rarely knew if what was written was "real" or "not real," which perhaps was the whole point of the narrative. (To be fai ...more
Apr 09, 2007 Charlie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People willing to read poetry-like prose, anyone looking for a tale told in a new way.
This was a great book. It took me a few days to really get into it because the voice is different than most novels, but once I got into it's rhythym, I loved it. It was like spoken word on the page. Or a Jazz tune played by Thelonious Monk in his heyday. This book flowed and the main character reverberated in my head.

WBS is the story of a black boy who grew up in California and ends up being the voice of his people (I'm not giving anything away here. He says that on the first page of the book).
Ms. Chappell
Wow. You know that quote about a book leaving you exhausted and feeling like you lived several lives? Well, this book did that for me. It was beyond absurd in parts and I understand that was part of the style. A satire, hyperbole galore. At times I felt like I was being smacked in the face with this unrealistic yet somehow accurate portrayal of growing up black. The vocabulary (part of the exaggeration) was fun, challenging, and ridiculous. Definitley helpful for anyone studying for the GRE or j ...more
I loved this book. This book was really a great read. Funny, smart and while I know there is quite heavy strokes used in composing the tale, I have to say that for the first time in a long while I felt that the "other" black experience was truthfully depicted. What does it mean to be Black and smart and yet be valued by the establishment for the skills that they want to value, and even when you are that amazingly talented everyone is still waiting for you to fail. I know this sounds kinda melodr ...more
If you don't like this book you may have no soul.

This book bombards readers with the ridiculousness of racial stereotypes. Beatty's character's are exaggerated and unbelievable, yet you can't help but recognize the counter part in real life. It's a story of family history, social history and individual history founded on survival and endurance at the cost of conformity.
The inevitable fear that we are bound to repeat generational mistakes even when we are aware of them.

Brilliant analysis of indi
Maria Wallisch
Interesting read. I'd like to know how much of the story is based on events of Paul Beatty's life, and how much of it was fictitious.
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The White Boy Shuffle - YA? 2 10 Dec 30, 2012 11:51PM  
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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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“It's corny, but I think poems are echoes of the voices in your head and from your past. Your sisters, your father, your ancestors taking to you and through you. Some of it is primal, some of it is hallucinatory bullshit. That madness those boys rapping ain't nothing but urban folklore. They retelling stories passed down from chicken coop to apartment stoop to Ford coupe. Hear that rhyme, boy. Shit, I could get down and rap if I had to. MC Big Mama Osteoporosis in the house.” 3 likes
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