by Paul Beatty
This blistering satire about race in America, won the Man Booker Prize, marking the first time an American writer has won the award. The five Booker judges, who were unanimous in their decision, cited the novel’s inventive comic approach to the thorny issues of racial identity and injustice. In a review in The New York Times, Dwight Garner wrote that the novel’s first 100 pages read like “the most concussive monologues and interviews of Chris Rock, Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle wrapped in a satirical yet surprisingly delicate literary and historical sensibility.” The novel’s narrator is an African-American urban farmer and pot smoker who lives in a small town on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Brought up by a single father, a sociologist, the narrator grew up taking part in psychological studies about race. After his father is killed by the police during a traffic stop, the protagonist embarks on a controversial social experiment of his own, and ends up before the Supreme Court. He becomes a slave owner to a willing volunteer, an elderly man named Hominy Jenkins who once played understudy to Buckwheat on “The Little Rascals,” and seeks to reinstate segregation in a local school.