Paul Beatty’s biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court.

The son of a pioneering sociologist believes that selling his father’s controversial memoir will solve the family’s financial woes. But when he realises there never was a memoir, drastic action is required… The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality - the Black Chinese restaurant.

The Man Booker Prize 2016
Published by
Oneworld Publications
Publication date

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Paul Beatty

Paul Beatty

About the Author

Paul Beatty is the author of the novels Slumberland, Tuff, The White Boy Shuffle and The Sellout, which won the Booker Prize in 2016.
More about Paul Beatty

Paul Beatty on The Sellout

‘Everybody’s very comfortable with saying, “Oh, you’re a satirist, you’re this, you’re that,” and all this other kind of stuff. For personal-freedom reasons, I say, “No. That’s not me. I just write. Whatever it is, is what it is.” I guess people don’t often think about what satire really is—but for you to talk about how real it is, is a comfort to me. Because even some of the more ridiculous stuff in there, that you would think is obvious satire, is sort of real—or definitely based in something.’

Read the full interview here.

Paul Beatty

What the judges said

The Sellout is one of those very rare books: which is able to take satire, which is a very difficult subject and not always done well, and plunges it into the heart of contemporary American society with a savage wit of the kind I haven’t seen since Swift or Twain. It manages to eviscerate every social taboo and politically correct nuance, every sacred cow. While making us laugh, it also makes us wince. It is both funny and painful at the same time.’

What the critics said

Dwight Garner, The New York Times

‘The first 100 pages of 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 […] like the most concussive monologues and interviews of Chris Rock, Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle wrapped in a satirical yet surprisingly delicate literary and historical sensibility.’

Seth Colter Walls, The Guardian

‘Beatty’s wicked wit is the book’s chief source of momentum. And though he avoids the traps of plotless modernism, Beatty’s constant barrage of asides and routines eventually does take precedence over the supreme court plot, for example […] It’s [the] deliberate subversion of harmful cultural assumptions that makes this daring and abrasive novel a joy to read – the furthest thing imaginable from a selling out of anyone.’

Kevin Young, The New York Times Book Review

‘From its title on, The Sellout so clearly and gleefully means to offend that any offense taken suggests we aren’t as comfortable with race or ourselves as we wish to be […] Beatty’s novel breaks open the private jokes and secrets of blackness (one of which is that Being Black Is Fun) in a way that feels powerful and profane and that manages not to be escapist […] If not a classic, The Sellout is destined to be a ­really good cult jam. It’s a post-soul ­parody, trying to feel more like the skits between songs than the song itself.’

Michael Schaub, NPR

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 […] while there is plenty of real sadness in The Sellout, it’s tempered by Beatty’s outrageously hilarious mockery of politics, entertainment, and pretty much everything else. It’s a risky book unconcerned about offending readers, which is a rare thing indeed in today’s easily outraged culture […] The Sellout 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.’

Luke Wiget, The Rumpus

The Sellout does with race what Flannery O’Connor did with religion in books like Wiseblood. It magnifies problems until they’re absurd and hilarious […] Buy the book. Buy it in extra large print. Laugh at it in front of people. Try to explain why.’

Man Booker Prize 2016 Winner Ceremony