Born in the 'agrarian ghetto' of Dickens - on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles - the narrator of The Sellout is raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, and spends his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. Led to believe his father's pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family's financial woes, he is shocked to discover, when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, that there never was a memoir. All that's left is a bill for a drive-through funeral.
Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from embarrassment. Enlisting the help of Dickens' most famous resident - Hominy Jenkins - he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school. What follows is a remarkable journey that challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement and the holy grail of racial equality - the black Chinese restaurant.
Shortlisted for Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize 2016.
Longlisted for Man Booker Prize 2016
'There's satire and then there's satire, and without question Paul Beatty's caustic third novel, The Sellout, definitely falls into the latter category...brutally honest and very funny'. Independent 'Both riotously experimental and touching...erudite...and viscerally engaging...Exceptional comic writing makes the skeletal plotting work...Beatty's inspiring new novel about the impossibility of "post-racial" anything in America is much more than "scathing" - it is constructive'. Times Literary Supplement 'Beatty's sharp humour challenges pieties from all sides...Intelligent...entertaining...exhilarating'. Daily Telegraph 'Beatty is an original and irreverent talent'. Times 'The longer you stare at Beatty's pages, the smarter you'll get.' Guardian '[A] howl-a-passage assault on the pieties of race debates in America...outrageous, hilarious and profound...It takes a whole other level of sheer audacity to expose atrocious things through the play of wit. Beatty plays for high stakes - but he wins. His brilliant, beautiful and weirdly poignant book knocks the stuffing out of right-thinking solemnities and he delivers droll wisdoms besides which the most elevated rants...pale into ponderous sententiousness...Juiciness stains every lovely page of Beatty's mad, marvellous, toothsome book.' -- Simon Schama Financial Times 'Brilliant. Amazing. Like demented angels wrote it.' Sarah Silverman '[An] outrageous, riff-strewn satire on race in America...[The Sellout] combines effervescent comedy and stinging critique, but its most arresting quality is the lively humanity of its char-acters.' The New Yorker 'Hilariously caustic.' Rolling Stone 'Scarysmart...A hell of a ride.' Newsweek '[The Sellout] is among the most important and difficult American novels written in the 21st century...It is a bruising novel that readers will likely never forget.' Los Angeles Times 'I am glad that I read this insane book alone, with no one watch-ing, because I fell apart with envy, hysterics, and flat-out awe. Is there a more fiercely brilliant and scathingly hilarious American novelist than Paul Beatty?' Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet 'Let's get this out of the way: The Sellout is a work of genius, a satirical opus on race in 21st-century America.' O, The Oprah Magazine "[The Sellout] may end up being the smartest, funniest, and most important novel of 2016.' Flavorwire 'Had we been granted a chunk of pages in this magazine to extol the virtues of Paul Beatty's uproarious new novel, The Sellout, we could've easily and gladly filled them - much as Beatty floods his 288-page racial satire with blistering comic flourishes.' Penthouse 'The Sellout isn't just one of the most hilarious American novels in years, it also might be the first truly great satirical novel of the century...[It] is a comic masterpiece, but it's much more than just that-it's one of the smartest and most honest reflections on race and identity in America in a very long time.' NPR.org 'Beatty creates a wicked satire that pokes fun at all that is sacred to life in the United States...His story is full of the unexpected, resulting in absurd and hilarious drama.' Library Journal 'As Mark Twain so ably showed us, America...is rich with mate-rial worthy of ridicule. But where is today's Twain? The answer is Paul Beatty...Beatty has written a wild new book, an uproar-iously funny, deliciously profane and ferociously intelligent send-up of so much of our culture.' San Francisco Chronicle 'An exuberant parade of forbidden words and twisted stereo-types...It's incendiary fun with very serious undertones.' New York magazine, "Vulture" blog 'Timely, phantasmagoric, and deliriously funny.' Barnes & Noble Review '[An] audacious, diabolical trickster-god of a novel...[A] damn-near-instant classic.' Bookforum 'Beatty is funny as hell...Behind all the humor, however, Beatty asks important questions about racism and identity. The Sellout is a knock-out punch.' Shelf Awareness '[Beatty] is back with his most penetratingly satirical novel yet ...[A] daring, razor-sharp novel from a writer with talent to burn.' Kirkus 'Beatty, author of the deservedly highly praised The White Boy Shuffle (1996), here outdoes himself and possibly everybody else in a send-up of race, popular culture, and politics in today's America ... Beatty hits on all cylinders in a darkly funny, dead-on-target, elegantly written satire ... [The Sellout] is frequently laugh-out-loud funny and, in the way of the great ones, profoundly thought provoking. A major contribution.' Booklist (starred review) 'Paul Beatty has always been one of smartest, funniest, gutsiest writers in America, but The Sellout sets a new standard. It's a spectacular explosion of comic daring, cultural provocation, brilliant, hilarious prose, and genuine heart.' Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask 'A brutally fun read, but don't misunderstand it as unserious...Beatty delivers brilliant humour with a caustic bite, and parts can be uncomfortable to sit through...But it was unlike anything else I'd read before, at once side-splitting and thought-provoking. It's a book that forcibly ejects you out of your comfort zone, and once you're there, you're going to want to linger a while.' The Atlantic 'It will make you laugh, but most of all it will make you think.' Sunday Times 'Beatty's towering talent proves there's no subject, no matter how infuriatingly unjust, how outrageously sorrowful, which can't be made to glitter like gold in the hands of a brilliant writer.' Big Issue 'Beatty impresses hugely in this mischievous and caustic satire, which buzzes with inventiveness and iconoclasm.' Sunday Herald 'Beatty takes very little entirely seriously in this zany, irreverent take on racial politics in America today.' Shiny New Books '[The Sellout] is the most lacerating American satire in years, fearless in the way that it takes apart our sacred cows and shared delusions. It responds to America's tortured relationship with race in the past and the present with the mockery it deserves, sprinkling jokes steeped in tragedy throughout.' Guardian 'The first 100 pages of [Paul Beatty's] new novel, The Sellout, are the most caustic and the most badass first 100 pages of an American novel I've read in at least a decade. I gave up underlin-ing the killer bits because my arm began to hurt...The riffs don't stop coming in this landmark and deeply aware comic novel...[It] puts you down in a place that's miles from where it picked you up.' Dwight Garner, New York Times 'Swiftian satire of the highest order...Giddy, scathing and dazzling.' Wall Street Journal
Paul Beatty is the author of three novels - Slumberland, Tuff and The White Boy Shuffle - and two books of poetry: Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. He is the editor of Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor. He lives in New York City.