Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#Collaboreads: The Sellout

It's the day where the (sort of) book club comes back for all the book sharing and speaking! Rachel and I have been busy reading and talking about books... And then a few online friends asked what happened to the beloved #Collaboreads... We didn't have a great answer and, in fact, missed the community of book nerds that gathered here soooo, WE'RE BACK!

Rachel and I are thrilled you're here, but first:

If you missed what #Collaboreads is, you can familiarize yourself here.

Short version: Rachel and I pick a random criteria for the book (i.e. Takes Place in Summertime). You pick your book and read it. Then the last Wednesday of the month we meet up and talk about our choices.There's a R.E.A.D.S. review format that we've shared for suggestion's sake (shared in this post), but feel free to review however you're comfortable!

For August we asked you to read a book written by someone that's a different ethnicity than you. I struggled pinning this down to a single read because there were too many amazing options and HOW DO YOU CHOOSE JUST ONE? But I did.

By Paul Beatty
Well, I didn't LOVE and adore this one. I find myself hesitant to say that because I wanted to be thrilled and rave about the goodness that is Beatty's writing. But, the thing is, I DID love his writing. I loved his ability to craft gorgeous sentences that were rife with sarcasm. I treasured his ability to pointedly assess our country's current state of (racial) affairs with small chunks of words.

So why? Why less than love?

Because I adore plot. My favorite novels are plot driven cupcakes topped with the sweet frosting of diverse and developed characters. And, The Sellout falls short in terms of plot. It covers the trial of a black man who has a slave in modern day LA. I looked forward to the premise, was thankful for the conversation, and couldn't wait to eat up the humor. But the book hardly moved in terms of plot. And I found myself dragging along behind the beautiful words wishing for some peak or valley in the action.

I also want to be honest in saying: I was craving a convicting but swift read. I wanted to be swept up in the lives of the characters and ache alongside them, cheer for their victories, and think HARD about the issues at hand. That's not this book: it's a satirical slog requiring you to engage, to be ready for hundreds of thinking things, and, well, I wasn't.

Beatty's humor is what kept me picking up the book and repelled me from it. The prose is perfect; Beatty is a TALENTED wordsmith. I don't want to do a disservice to how honestly great he is at crafting gorgeous sentences. But there were honest to goodness moments after a long day where all I wanted was an easy read. I wanted to get lost in the story and end up 100 pages further along than I was in what seemed like jusst moments ago... And that's the wrong approach.

This book is filled with references to American racial history that spans from slavery days to modern day police brutality. You' d need an extensive understanding of hundreds of years of racial history to catch them all (I know there's more that I missed than I comprehended), but I don't want that to deter you. Google is your friend.


The Catcher in the Rye. Literally, all I could think of is the humor and dry wit of Holden throughout the course of the novel. I don't know that Holden and the narrator of this book (who never has a name) would get along as friends, BUT their perspective and attitude were ridiculously similar.

Also, Kurt Vonnegut. Anything by Vonnegut -with his satire and tight lines of wisdom- walks in close proximity to Beatty's writing.

And I couldn't leave this section without saying Dave Chappelle. His ability to comment on racial issues in post-racial America while making you laugh is RIGHT HERE in the same circle as Beatty. They're calling our understanding of race into question, pressing us to address the issues at hand, and requiring us to be honest about what's really going on here in America.


REALLY honest moment: I loved the pink details on the cover. I adored the way it looks like preppy printed lobster shorts, but instead it's (who I consider to be) Hominy Jenkins (the slave in the novel). 



While it deals with relevant (and important) conversations happening in our culture right now, it just doesn't go all the way for me. It falls short with the lack of plot and the narrator's humor starts to feel more like shtick than satire... I wish I could have watered it down with a few ounces of narrative movement and it'd easily run in a four-five start circle.

And now, it's your turn to talk about all the books that filled your month!

Next month's topic we'll see you on 
September 28th! 
And we're going to be reading... 

Banned books! 
(Because it's Banned Books week RIGHT NOW!) 

Here's one list and another of possibilities for you. 

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