26 Oct
Posted in: Books
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Not So Comfortable

not-quite-comfortableAs I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve started to expand a bit beyond my cultural comfort zone by reading more books by African-American authors. I am sad to admit that in the past I thought books by these authors — particularly books about the experience of being black in this country — had nothing to do with me. As if the everyday privileges I enjoy as a result of being white…including the privilege of remaining blissfully unaware of those privileges…were not given to me at the expense of others who are excluded from those privileges. (In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, pull up a chair and read this: The Case for Reparations.)

So I was delighted to hear yesterday that a black American, Paul Beatty, has won the Man Booker Prize for his novel, The Sellout. It’s definitely outside of my comfort zone, but I’m going for it. Here’s the opening paragraph:

This may be hard to believe, coming from a black man, but I’ve never stolen anything. Never cheated on my taxes or at cards. Never snuck into the movies or failed to give back the extra change to a drugstore cashier indifferent to the ways of mercantilism and minimum-wage expectations. I’ve never burgled a house. Held up a liquor store. Never boarded a crowed bus or subway car, sat in a seat reserved for the elderly, pulled out my gigantic penis and masturbated to satisfaction with a perverted, yet somehow crestfallen, look on my face. But here I am, in the cavernous chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, my car illegally and somewhat ironically parked on Constitution Avenue, my hands cuffed and crossed behind my back, my right to remain silent long since waived and said goodbye to as I sit in a thickly padded chair that, much like this country, isn’t quite as comfortable as it looks.

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