5. “The White Boy Shuffle,” Paul Beatty

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I didn’t know how to explain this to anyone when I was reading it, so the summary might be sort of disjointed.

This book is highly sarcastic/parodic story following Gunnar Kaufmann, a black teenager raised in an affluent suburb of Santa Monica whose mother decides that he is not getting the authentic black experience and moves the family to the ghetto. Which should give you an idea about the tone this book takes– it’s a witty, scathing critique of racial politics in the US told as a Bildungsroman, much of its criticism predicated around the idea of the “authentic” black experience.

Gunnar is a poet, writing his observations about Black street life on the walls of his neighborhood. The first time he plays basketball, at the age of twelve, he discovers that he can dunk. He doesn’t know enough about the sport to know that this is a feat, but everyone else does. Rapidly, he is pushed into a life of basketball stardom that eventually carries him to BU, which has recently bought its way into the Ivy League. With his new wife, a mail-order bride bought for him by a friend, Psycho Loco, from Japan, he moves into a small Boston apartment. His classmates and professor worship him in his first poetry class. All have read his chapbooks and so overwhelm him with praise that he simply walks home, stripping off his clothes on the street and laying naked with his pregnant wife while his entire class asks him questions about his process.

More when I have the book with me.

Page count: 226
Page total: 961

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