A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"An unbelievable debut, one that announces a new and necessary American voice."--New York Times Book Review
The acclaimed debut collection from the author of Chain Gang All Stars; a piercingly raw and, at times, heartbreakingly satirical look at what it's like to be young and black in America.
From the start of this extraordinary debut, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day in this country.
These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world.
- In "The Finkelstein Five," Adjei-Brenyah gives us an unforgettable reckoning of the brutal prejudice of our justice system. In "Zimmer Land," we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport. "Friday Black" and "How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King" show the horrors of consumerism and the toll it takes on us all.
Entirely fresh in its style and perspective, and sure to appeal to fans of Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, and George Saunders, Friday Black confronts readers with a complicated, insistent, wrenching chorus of emotions, the final note of which, remarkably, is hope.
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About the Author
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Named a Best Book by:
New York Times, TIME, Elle, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, Guardian, BuzzFeed, Newsweek, Harper's Bazaar, Nylon, Boston Globe, Southern Living, O, the Oprah Magazine, Chicago Tribune, The Verge, The Root, Vulture, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Millions, New York Observer, Literary Hub, Color Lines, PopSugar, PEN America, The Rumpus, BookPage, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the CBC, Longreads, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Library Journal, The Big Issue, Chicago Public Library, My Domaine, Locus Magazine, Bookish, Read It Forward, Entropy Magazine, WAMC, Hudson Booksellers, and The Seattle Review of Books One of the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" honorees, chosen by Colson Whitehead
Winner of the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award
Winner of the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing in Fiction
Winner of the Rockland Arts Council's Literary Artist Award
One of the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2018
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Award for Best First Book
Finalist for the Aspen Words Literary Prize
Finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize
Finalist for the American Booksellers Association's Indie Choice Book Awards
Finalist for the New England Book Awards
Finalist for the John Gardner Award for Fiction
Finalist for the Balcones Fiction Prize
An Indie Next Pick
Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Fiction
Longlisted for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award
A National Indie Bestseller
A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
A Boston Globe Bestseller
A New York Times Editors' Choice
A 2019 Notable Book from the American Library Association "A powerful and important and strange and beautiful collection of stories . . . An unbelievable debut, one that announces a new and necessary American voice . . . A dystopian story collection as full of violence as it is of heart. To achieve such an honest pairing of gore with tenderness is no small feat . . . Violence is only gratuitous when it serves no purpose, and throughout Friday Black we are aware that the violence is crucially related to both what is happening in America now, and what happened in its bloody and brutal history . . . In smart, terse prose, Adjei-Brenyah is unflinching, and willing, in most of these 12 stories, to leave us without any apparent hope. But the hope is there--or if it isn't hope, it's maybe something better: levelheaded, compassionate protagonists, with just enough integrity and ambivalence that they never feel sentimental. Each of these individuals carries a subtle clarity about what matters most when nothing makes sense in these strange and brutal worlds he builds . . . Adjei-Brenyah's voice here is as powerful and original as Saunders's is throughout Tenth of December . . . [Adjei-Brenyah] is here to signal a warning, or perhaps just to say this is what it feels like, in stories that move and breathe and explode on the page. In Friday Black, the dystopian future Adjei-Brenyah depicts--like all great dystopian fiction--is bleakly futuristic only on its surface. At its center, each story--sharp as a knife--points to right now."
--Tommy Orange, New York Times Book Review "They're dystopian, they're absurdist, there's elements of horror. This is [Adjei-Brenyah's] debut, and I can't wait to see all of the work he does from here."
--Yaa Gyasi, recommending FRIDAY BLACK on The Today Show "Strange, dark and sometimes unnervingly funny . . . The [titular] story is a not-so-subtle critique of consumerism run amok. But like all effective satire, there's a glint of truth and accumulation of mundane details that make the farcical scenario feel plausible . . . [Friday Black] uses fantasy and scorching satire to tackle issues like school shootings, abortion, racism, the callowness of commercialism, and how cyclical violence can be passed on across generations . . . Adjei-Brenyah renders prosaic scenarios unfamiliar by adding a surreal, disorienting twist."
--Alexandra Alter, The New York Times "I can't remember the last book that has moved, unsettled, inspired me the way Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's Friday Black did. From challenging the reader's unconscious biases through a narrator who rates his "Blackness" on a 1-10 scale, to creating a semi-speculative thought experiment in which racism is treated as a cultural pastime, these are stories in which the satirical humor cuts as deep as its gritty violence."
--Lauren Christensen, The New York Times "A collection of short stories unlike any I have read in recent memory...You will stomach reaching of a chainsaw massacre just for the striking, resonant payoff at the end. And your post-Thanksgiving shopping may never be the same. It's also absurdly funny, but you'll wonder if you should be laughing."
--Randy Archibold, The New York Times Book Review "Impressive...There's enormous talent on display in Friday Black."
--Wall Street Journal "This pitch-dark, brutal, occasionally--mercifully!--funny collection of stories takes on the insidious nature of racism and the horrors of capitalism in equal measure and somehow ends up hopeful on the other side. Friday Black is enraging, it's inventive . . . Much like living through this year, the experience of reading Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut can be harrowing, but it's ultimately a pleasure to be in the company of a new voice as exciting as this."
--Vogue "In this vivid, original story collection, Adjei-Brenyah presents America in all its racism, weirdness and abject consumerism."
--TIME "Surreal, sobering, and tender all at once, this debut collection shines a laser-sharp light on the experience of being black in today's America."
--People "Fearless...[A] major literary debut . . . Unnervingly unpredictable . . . Friday Black ought to land as publishing's definitive addition to an exciting pop culture trend: new black surrealism. Films such as Get Out and Sorry to Bother You, or Donald Glover projects like Atlanta and "This Is America," derive political power from a kind of absurdist framing, which this book shares . . . Adjei-Brenyah executes his premises with an elegant Black Mirror-like realism...In their gnarly intensity, their polemical potency, they hit us where we live, here and now. Sometimes it takes a wild mind to speak the plainest truth."
--Entertainment Weekly "Adjei-Brenyah's surreal, dystopian Friday Black is 2018's avant-garde darling."
--Entertainment Weekly, "The Oscars of the Book World" "One of the most anticipated literary debuts of the fall, Friday Black veers between the surreal and the satirical in its bold take on being young and black in America."
--Entertainment Weekly, Most Anticipated Books of October "[A] knockout . . . illuminate[s] unsettling truths about the world."
--Elle "Like Kurt Vonnegut, the debut author introduces readers to worlds adjacent to our reality. They're familiar enough for us to recognize ourselves within them--until Adjei-Brenyah takes the tough-to-stomach parts of humanity to extremes, like Black Friday shoppers turning into violent, materialistic murderers. The stories wrestle with racism, mob mentality, police violence, and unrestrained consumerism. They're quick to read, and incredibly hard to forget."
--Elle, "Best Books of the Year So Far" "Picks up where Boots Riley's film, Sorry to Bother You, left off, tackling racism in the U.S. jarringly and head-on...Tense, emotional."
--Vanity Fair "Inventive and stirring...Ingenious...[His stories] are so daring and mind-bending that you haven't a clue where he's going to take you...Adjei-Brenyah is a versatile writer who creates a micro-universe with each story that explodes our expectations and takes us inside frustrated lives."
--Bernardine Evaristo, Guardian "Standout."
--Guardian, Best Fiction of the Year "Surreal, startling...Composed with brio and rare imaginative power, Friday Black recaptures the strange fear and excitement we first feel as child readers, when we begin to learn that Grimms' fairytales are approximations of the real world."
--Guardian "Reading Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut short story collection Friday Black is like being shaken awake. These stories exist in a sort of hyperreality, ordinary characters living in the not-so-unbelievable, Black Mirror-esque future of a culture that doesn't hesitate to commodify cruelty or monetize revolution . . . Adjei-Brenyah skewers the ways we brush past racism and injustice, making the absurdity of the rhetoric around both impossible to ignore."
--BuzzFeed "Yes, anyone who likes Saunders should read Friday Black right away. Anyone who could take or leave Saunders should, too...No comparison can convey a book's intellectual heft, and Friday Black is as intellectually hefty as fiction can get. In these twelve stories, Adjei-Brenyah turns over ideas about racism, about classism and capitalism, about the apocalypse, and, most of all, about the corrosive power of belief. His work is fiercely, spikily funny. And no matter how supernatural his stories get, no matter how zombie-ish or futuristic, every one of them takes place in the world we know...Adjei-Brenyah has some serious powers himself. The energy in his fiction is wild, barely controllable yet perfectly controlled. Short stories, as a form, tend to compress big emotion into small action, but not these. Adjei-Brenyah fits big emotion, big action, and big thought into each story. His violence is never gratuitous, his ghosts never too chain-rattling to believe...Adjei-Brenyah speaks in more voices than seems possible, and those voices will follow you off the page...They will assert themselves, over and over. I'm here, these stories say. Sit up. Pay attention. I'm here."
--NPR Books "This collection is nothing short of astounding."
--Nick Petrulakis, Boston Globe "Adjei-Brenyah's collection promises a searing, exacting look at injustice in America, from the quotidian to the systemic, delivered in a way that makes it impossible to look away."
--Huffington Post "Imagine a cross betweenGet Out and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, and you'll have a sense of what awaits readers of this audacious debut: darkly absurdist tales that take the horrors of racism to surreal new levels."
--O, the Oprah Magazine "The edge of the stories in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut collection Friday Black is razor sharp, ready to cut deep. This book is dark and captivating and essential. This book is a call to arms and a condemnation. Adjei-Brenyah offers powerful prose as parable. The writing in this outstanding collection will make you hurt and demand your hope. Read this book. Marvel at the intelligence of each of these stories and what they reveal about racism, capitalism, complacency and their insidious reach."
--Roxane Gay "For literature to bring forth such an astonishing new voice as Nana K. Adjei-Brenyah's--tender and furious, wise and wise-assed--marks a major leap forward for us all. The very first story brought me to tears, putting me in mind of Babel or Chekhov. And Adjei-Brenyah keeps doing that--dragging you through dystopic muck and mire before landing you in a transcendent spiritual place. This is the fiction debut of the year, and I can't cheer it loudly enough. Bravo, young man. We await your encore."
--Mary Karr "These stories are an excitement and a wonder: strange, crazed, urgent and funny, yet classical in the way they take on stubborn human problems: the depravities of capitalism, love struggling to assert itself within heartless systems. The wildly talented Adjei-Brenyah has made these edgy tales immensely charming, via his resolute, heartful, immensely likeable narrators, capable of seeing the world as blessed and cursed at once."
--George Saunders "Straight up breathtaking. I always love to read a book and think 'I have no goddamn idea how this person is this good.' It's so good."
--Samantha Irby "Stunning . . . Adjei-Brenyah grapples with many of the most complicated, essential issues of today, from the evils of racism and capitalism to the ways in which violence and inequality are expected parts of life for so many people in America. Adjei-Brenyah's prose grabs you from the beginning and doesn't loosen its grip, as it takes you into the dark corners of the American experience, with a lyricism, dark wit, and palpable emotional weight."
--Nylon "Searing . . . Adjei-Brenyah examines, with dark humor and urgent insight, what it's like to be young and black in America . . . These satirical tales tackle violence, injustice and rampant consumerism with brutal honesty."
--Chicago Tribune "Striking and topical...This high-concept and morally rich collection is discomfiting and moving, savage in its social critique yet generous towards its characters. It ends with a lovely, tempered note of hope...The stories that Adjei-Brenyah tells are terrifying. But, in our reading them, at least we're not alone."
--Boston Globe "One of the most exciting fictiondebuts of the year...By turns funny, tragic, and unsettling, Adjei-Brenyah's stories work their way under your skin and stay there, leaping out at you when you least expect it."
--Vox "The stories in this collection are aching and powerful dispatches on race, violence, and the modern world."
--Southern Living "Like taking a direct hit from a fellow shopper on Black Friday, this book will knock the wind out of you. Adjei-Brenyah's utterly fresh debut feels like a marriage between the chilling 'battle royale' scene in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and the boundary-leaping fiction of George Saunders...Piercing...Adjei-Brenyah writes with mind-blowing imagination and a heart on fire, like he has X-ray vision to penetrate the American soul."
--Dallas Morning News "George Saunders for the post-Obama era, with some Paul Beatty sprinkled in, Adjei-Brenyah takes the absurdities of racism and other American ills to comic-dystopian extremes in her debut short story collection . . . Tenderness pokes through."
--Vulture, Best Books of October "The stories in this debut collection warp the dark realities of American racism into vicious satire."
--Vulture, Most Anticipated Books of the Fall "Adjei-Brenyah takes the absurdities of racism and other ills to comic-dystopian extremes."
--Vulture, "To Do: Oct 17-31, 2018" "Darkly humorous satire of the dystopic results of an American culture conditioned to accept the excesses of capitalism, racism, and structural violence as the norm. The extraordinary becomes quotidian. And somehow Adjei-Brenyah retains a semblance of hope."
--Mychal Denzel Smith, Electric Literature "Adjei-Brenyah's caustically inventive and audaciously topical debut collection of short stories wastes no time in letting you know where the author stands . . . There is anger in this collection, but also nuance, grace and a probing empathy with the breaking hearts and bemused emotions of men, women and children struggling to deal with the jolting maelstrom of postmillennial American racism . . . Adjei-Brenyah may well be the most provocative among a startlingly promising group of young African American short-fiction writers (Nafissa Thompson-Spires, JM Holmes, Jamel Brinkley) who have emerged this year. His mordant wit, dystopian visions and keen sense of injustice aren't just intended to shock the reader but also to provide space to contemplate myriad social traumas and their close-to-the-bone effects on people's lives . . . [In the story] "In Retail," [the] narrator, after mentioning the suicide of a cashier, says, '[I]f you wanna be happy here in the Prominent Mall you have to dig happiness up, 'cause it's not gonna just walk up to you and ask how you're doing.' That observation, as much as any in "Friday Black," could encapsulate what these bleak, funny and oddly heartfelt stories are trying to tell their readers: In the most trying and bewildering times, don't expect sense to be easily made or grace to force its way in your lives. Make your own sense of things. Let the grace come to you."
--Newsday "Disturbingly dark and extremely brilliant . . . While the wild inventiveness and piercing insights of Adjei-Brenyah's stories could be described as Saunders-esque, the tough, nimble prose, which isn't afraid to turn brutal or heartbreaking, is purely his own invention."
--Interview Magazine "Satirical, edgy, fresh, hard-hitting."
--Philadelphia Inquirer "Tackling issues like criminal justice, consumerism, and racism, these timely stories are searching for humanity in a brutal world. The collection is both heartbreaking and hopeful."
--The Millions "The stories in the collection have a dystopian bent and are told with dark humor and a clear-eyed understanding of human failings."
--Poets & Writers "Compelling . . . A satirical yet unflinching look at what it's like to be black and young in America."
--New York Observer "Friday Black announces the bold and innovative voice of Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. His 12 fierce stories animate -- and, at times, amplify -- a truly devastating portrait of race relations in our country today...Adjei-Brenyah's debut collection very much falls within the literary continuum of The Underground Railroad, a sort of contemporary, satirical counterpart to [Colson] Whitehead's novel about slavery...Adjei-Brenyah is clearly creating his own world here -- and readers need to pay attention."
--San Francisco Chronicle "Black Mirror meets George Saunders meets Get Out; that's how I would characterize Adjei-Brenyah's bleak, tender, darkly satirical debut collection, which creates indelible absurdist dystopias in order to magnify what it means to be black in America...The best stories in Friday Black are brutal, breathtaking nightmares that will stay with you long after the final pages are turned."
--Literary Hub "A captivating exploration into the urgent issues facing black men and women today . . . The stories collected here are raw and in your face and at times explosive, all of which make it one of the year's most searing debuts."
--PopSugar "By pursuing this human need to belong (and also resist), Adjei-Brenyah gives us stories that are covered in dystopian gloom but also imbued with an illuminating hope. Whether his characters are on the bus, at a fortune teller's, or in a hospital room, Adjei-Brenyah's stories convey the wide range of human experience and the endless limits of imagination."
--The Rumpus "Strange, dark...Its satire is the blackest of black, asking hard questions about race, about consumerism, about savagery in both the world imagined and the world around us...For all the misery and death in the book, it's a wicked-good read dashed with warmth, hope and humor. [Adjei-Brenyah] hasn't given up on homo sapiens. Far from it...Yes, there's suffering. Yes, people of color die at the hands of systemic racism. Yes, he takes all of those truths and inflates them in fiction, pushing them to head-cracking extremes, warping them into a vivid panoply of dark fables peopled with ordinary folk. But to paraphrase Monty Python, we're not dead yet."
--Albany Times-Union "An unflinching examination of the world we live in told through science fiction, humor and satire. By stretching the ordinary into extraordinary, Friday Black takes on race, consumerism, violence and complacency with remarkable skill and poise...Adjei-Brenyah's style allows readers to question themselves, their communities, and ultimately the world."
--Syracuse Post Standard "Cutting from start to finish, a deep stare into the sociocultural abyss shot through with bleak humor...Adjei-Brenyah prods at tropes and expectations to create affective and moving stories...Adjei-Brenyah creates sweeps of dystopic horror that don't appear much different from the present moment at all. Nothing in Friday Black feels impossible or unreal; in fact, the punch of the constant violence is that it's utterly plausible despite the purposeful edginess of literary surrealism. Issues of authority, power, and social violence are dealt with as sticky webs, hideous and interrelated, whose effects are all-encompassing and inescapable...The perspective Adjei-Brenyah is offering on black masculinities in America is vital and significant. He is also working with a set of literary tropes (and a style of edge-pushing short fiction in particular) that are reminiscent of Chuck Palahniuk...The collection is multifaceted, provocative, and focused first on affect. His willingness to explore ethical and emotional complexity, offering incisive portrayals and few simple answers, gives Friday Black the kind of heft I don't see often in short fiction debuts...An important book for our contemporary political moment."
--Tor.com "Exceptional...Adjei-Brenyah has unleashed a ferociously indignant howl against America's worst impulses...The astonishing intensity of Adjei-Brenyah's scenarios are so at odds with the measured, almost workmanlike prose used to convey them that the extreme suddenly seems uncomfortably less outlandish...Time and again, Adjei-Brenyah's audacious magnifying glass reveals startling truths...There is subtlety here, too, which adds to the emotional weight of these stories...But without a doubt, it is the perversion of the familiar that shocks the most, because while these stories are exaggerated, they are frighteningly recognizable."
--amNewYork "These stories magnify what it means to be black in America--wherein your very presence can be deemed threatening, and therefore worthy of capital punishment--through a satirical, uncanny lens, reflecting back just how absurd and dehumanizing our reality is. They force us to reckon with our country's toxic racism and consumerism while being compulsively readable and somehow even funny...America might be dehumanizing, Adjei-Brenyah seems to say, but we can still be human."
--BOMB "Each of Adjei-Brenyah's characters deals with the numbness that comes after the shock of death wears off--and the pain that arises when that shock doesn't fade. This is a difficult read and a twisting meditation on a world where love's gone missing."
--BookPage "In 2018 one intoxicating short story collection cried out for special attention among its lauded peers, and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's Friday Black has haunted our dreams and plagued our nightmares ever since...[An] exhilarating blend of wildfire imagination, blood-freezing terror and ingenious wit...This is a book not easily forgotten. Its bold ideas and vivid metaphors creep into your brain at unexpected moments, like a unrelenting earworm suddenly singing on your head while you attempt to conduct a conversation, catch a train or follow a complicated movie plot. It's hard to read a story about white misperceptions or racially-aggravated injustice, or even to look upon a young black man slouching under a baseball cap without an image from Friday Black pushing its way to the front of your brain, forcing you to process the everyday through an Adjei-Brenyah filter. Adjei-Brenyah, the son of Ghanese immigrants, has landed on the literary scene fully loaded, full of inventive and provocative ways to make his readers sit up and think again - think harder - about the lives of black Americans. Like the two landmarks in contemporary black American pop culture his book is most frequently compared to - Jordan Peele's movie Get Out and Childish Gambino's video for This is America - it weaponises hyperbole, fantasy, horror and surrealism to create a high-impact dystopian vision of its native subject. Whether taking stock of a real life game in which contestants can safely relieve their violent, racist fantasies by 'murdering' black actors, or considering an existence in which your skin colour can be dialled up or down according to your choice of headgear, fabric, or walking style, Friday Black will make you reassess the way you conduct yourself in the world. That it achieves such a feat without sacrificing the pleasure of a rousing plot, or the satisfaction of an immediately arresting character is testament to its rookie writer's understanding of what makes a compulsive short story. As its readership blossoms under the sinister rain clouds of Trump's demagoguery, Adjei-Brenyah's debut offers a demonic alternative vision of America which will impact on every reader which pays proper attention. It will change the way its white consumers look at black people. This is black power, 2018 style. Underestimate it at your peril."
--The Big Issue, Book of the Year "Unflinching in its criticism of pervasive elements in modern America, tackling racial injustices, capitalism, school shootings, and more. Yet, even in pressing hot button issues, these stories remain firmly rooted in the people who inhabit them, calling for empathy even, and especially, for the characters who seem to least deserve it . . . Adjei-Brenyah is far from the first to attempt to tackle the issues plaguing American society through literature, but the ingenuity of his premises works to set this collection apart from the rest . . . The book's prime accomplishment is in inspiring empathy for the marginalized and the feared . . . Adjei-Brenyah is effective in asking not for forgiveness, but for understanding. Adjei-Brenyah uses a lens of exaggeration to lay bare harsh truths about our reality and dares his reader not to flinch. Friday Black is a strong debut collection that introduces a demanding young voice. Hopefully, for all our sakes, this author has plenty more words left in him to share."
--Harvard Crimson "Friday Black's subject is race, and the stories take on prejudice, racism, and American culture at large in a vivid and memorable way."
--Bookish "Remarkable in its honesty regarding the horrendous fantasy-life many white people in American still lead, while also critiquing the systems that allow for it . . . Imaginative . . . At first glance, you may think these tales are over the top, but look again: their expansion of real-life events, their critique of where we might be going, and their needling love for the characters harmed prove these stories are written by a visionary intent on showing us the less-than-moral mirror we're reflected in. A book to both enjoy and make you pause uncomfortably, it's well-worth the read."
--Read It Forward "In Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah presents us with a dystopia that, unfortunately, doesn't seem too removed from our reality . . . Yet the stories are charming and caustic, memorable because they are full of sharp characters who are aware that their world is upside down . . . Adjei-Brenyah lays out the many ways the enlightened interact with a broken world: they laugh, cry, shake their fists at it, or remain indifferent. But through Friday Black, the author not only validates the struggle of the discerning but reminds them they are not alone in being right."
--Columbia Journal "Edgy humor and fierce imagery coexist in these stories with shrewd characterization and humane intelligence, inspired by volatile material sliced off the front pages . . . Yet Adjei-Brenyah brings to what pundits label our 'ongoing racial dialogue' a deadpan style, an acerbic perspective, and a wicked imagination that collectively upend readers' expectations . . . Corrosive dispatches from the divided heart of America."
--Kirkus Reviews, (Starred Review) "Adjei-Brenyah dissects the dehumanizing effects of capitalism and racism in this debut collection of stingingly satirical stories... Adjei-Brenyah has put readers on notice: his remarkable range, ingenious premises, and unflagging, momentous voice make this a first-rate collection."
--Publishers Weekly, (Starred Review) "Adjei-Brenyah's dozen stor