African American Satire: What to Read After Friday Black

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has made a splash with what I consider the best book I've read this year: Friday Black. These short stories could be characterized as speculative fiction, but they are also sardonic satire. Taking everything from live role-playing games to Black Friday sales to their logical extreme, Adjei-Brenyah sheds some harsh and much-needed light on contemporary America. Having worked retail, my two favorite stories are the title entry and "How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKIng," but they are all without exception excellent. I cannot wait to see what this author comes up with next. If you are waiting for your chance at this book, or have read it and liked it, I do have other suggestions, also in that satirical, multiracial vein.

Probably closest to Adjei-Brenyah in tone and format is Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires. These short stories deal with less-seen African Americans, including those with disabilities and cosplayers. Some of these entries share characters, such as Fatima, who we follow well into adulthood as she deals with her racial and gender identity. Metafiction also makes an appearance in these stylistically diverse stories.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin's We Cast A Shadow owes a debt to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, but the story is all his own.The nameless narrator is the token minority at his law firm, and determined to prevent his biracial son from having to suffer as he does. However, this does not involve changing society, but in having the son undergo a surgical procedure that will render him Caucasian to all appearances. Ruffin delivers a more realistic than satiric rendition of racism in a dystopian, near future, but those who like the previous two books will probably find this one right up their alley.

An African American academic recently denied tenure discovers evidence that Edgar Allen Poe's only novel, accused of being racist, is actually based in fact in Pym by Mat Johnson. So begins a madcap odyssey to Antarctica where the academic and his crew are enslaved by albino Sasquatches. Full of incident, Johnson keeps the social commentary biting and flowing in this genre-defying novel.

The majority-minority, agrarian town of Dickens has been so disrespected by city planners and officials in Southern California that it has finally been written off the map in Paul Beatty's The Sellout. Enter Mee, who decides to save his hometown by segregating its school system and ends up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in yet another case meant to change race relations. Beatty is not afraid to stir the pot on both sides of the racial divide, and those who can't handle strong language would be advised to find another title, but this is elegant satire at its best.

Have more pointed humor from a racially diverse point of view? Tell us in the comments.

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