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The Sellout: Paul Betteys Book

Essay by   •  April 29, 2018  •  Book/Movie Report  •  725 Words (3 Pages)  •  293 Views

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Matthew Martinez

9/7/17

Michelle Chihara

ENGL 370

Know Thyself

The Sellout, by Paul Beatty, is a novel that contemplates the history and emotion of being a black citizen in America today. Coming from a state of mind that has seen a black president, Treyvon Martian, and a rise of political correctness, Beatty sets out to challenge what it truly means to live in a “post racial America.” The Sellout disjointedly follows the misadventures of Bonbon, a young man growing up in a ghetto called Dickens, an LA suburb meant to resemble a real-life Compton. The book reflects on Bonbon’s contemplation of discrimination, and make’s him question why the perception of his race is isolating the people within his culture. Through characters like Hominy Jenkins and Foy Cheshire, Beatty explores how social separation taints the perception of black consciousness, and how the culture judges themselves through the eyes of a segregated America. The stories main conflict comes from the disappearance of Dickens as a recognized city, and follows Bonbon’s efforts to get his home town it’s proper recognition by re-segregating busses and schools. The Sellout reflects on Americas new black aesthetic, and asks if racial tensions can be solved through integration between cultural ideologies.

Bonbon was “brought up in an atmosphere of calculated intimacy and intense levels of commitment,” (The Sellout, 27) through his father, who would preform social experiments on him to see if black prejudice was genetically or socially constructed. While cruel and irrational, the social and racial experiments helped Bonbon to recognize “the burden of being black and constantly having to decide whether I give a shit about it.” (The Sellout, 257). Bonbon reflects a similar experience with Hominy Jenkins, an actor known for staring on TV's hit series “Little Rascals.” Hominy learned to embody black stereotypes as a child actor, looking at himself through the perspective of racial bigotry; “Sometimes we just have to accept who we are and act accordingly. I’m a slave. That’s who I am. It’s the role I was born to play,” (The Sellout, 77). Foy Cheshire, leader of Dickens’ Dum-Dum Donuts intellectuals, was also subjected to the same racial confusion as Hominy. Instead, Foy chooses to be consumed by his prejudice by doing things like re-writeing Huckleberry Finn, his public recklessness, and taking contemporary ideas about black culture and making them more politically correct. Foy, Hominy and Bonbons dad can only see themselves through their racial identities, and can’t seem to shake the boundaries that others have put them through.

Even though he resents aspects of Foy, Hominy and his father, Bonbon see’s Dickens as his sense of identity. While Bonbon see’s his black identity as “starting life

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