Paul Beatty

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Paul Beatty
Beatty in 2016
Beatty in 2016
Born (1962-06-09) June 9, 1962 (age 60)
Los Angeles, California
Alma materBrooklyn College
Boston University
GenreFiction, poetry
Years active1990s–present
Notable worksThe White Boy Shuffle (1996)
The Sellout (2015)
Notable awards2015 National Book Critics Circle Award; 2016 Man Booker Prize

Paul Beatty (born June 9, 1962) is an American author and an associate professor of writing at Columbia University.[1] In 2016, he won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Booker Prize for his novel The Sellout. It was the first time a writer from the United States was honored with the Man Booker.

Early life and education[edit]

He was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1962. Beatty received an MFA degree in creative writing from Brooklyn College and an MA degree in psychology from Boston University. He is a 1980 graduate of El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, California. Beatty is married to filmmaker Althea Wasow,[2] sister of BlackPlanet co-founder Omar Wasow.[3]


In 1990, Beatty was crowned the first ever Grand Poetry Slam Champion of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.[4] One of the prizes for winning the championship title was the book deal that resulted in his first volume of poetry, Big Bank Take Little Bank (1991).[5] This was followed by another book of poetry, Joker, Joker, Deuce (1994), and appearances performing his poetry on MTV and PBS (in the series The United States of Poetry).[6] In 1993, he was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.[7]

His first novel, The White Boy Shuffle (1996), received a positive review in The New York Times from reviewer Richard Bernstein, who called the book "a blast of satirical heat from the talented heart of Black American life."[8] His second novel, Tuff (2000), received a positive notice in Time magazine, where it was described as being "like an extended rap song, its characters recounting struggle and survival with the bravado of hip-hoppers."[9] In 2006, Beatty edited an anthology of African-American humor called Hokum and wrote an article in The New York Times on the same subject.[10] His 2008 novel Slumberland was about an American DJ in Berlin, and reviewer Patrick Neate said: "At its best, Beatty's writing is shockingly original, scabrous and very funny."[11]

In his 2015 novel The Sellout, Beatty chronicles an urban farmer who tries to spearhead a revitalization of slavery and segregation in a fictional Los Angeles neighborhood. In The Guardian, Elisabeth Donnelly described it as "a masterful work that establishes Beatty as the funniest writer in America",[12] while reviewer Reni Eddo-Lodge called it a "whirlwind of a satire", going on to say: "Everything about The Sellout's plot is contradictory. The devices are real enough to be believable, yet surreal enough to raise your eyebrows."[13] The book took more than five years to complete.[14]

The Sellout was awarded the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction,[15][16] and the 2016 Man Booker Prize.[17][18] Beatty is the first American to have won the Man Booker Prize, for which all English-language novels became eligible in 2014.[19][20]

Awards and honors[edit]



  • Big Bank Take Little Bank (1991). Nuyorican Poets Cafe Press. ISBN 0-9627842-7-3
  • Joker, Joker, Deuce (1994). ISBN 0-14-058723-3


Edited volume[edit]

  • Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor (2006). Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 978-1596911482


  1. ^ Paul Beatty faculty page, Columbia University School of the Arts
  2. ^ Millen, Robbie, [1], The Times, October 25, 2016.
  3. ^ "Bio".
  4. ^ Aptowicz, Cristin O'Keefe (2008), Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam. Soft Skull Press, p. 45. ISBN 1-933368-82-9.
  5. ^ Aptowicz, p. 46.
  6. ^ Aptowicz, p. 80.
  7. ^ "Grants to artists, Poetry 1993 | Paul Beatty", Foundation for Contemporary Arts.
  8. ^ a b Bernstein, Richard (May 31, 1996). "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Black Poet's First Novel Aims the Jokes Both Ways". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  9. ^ Philadelphia, Desa, "Books: Tuff By Paul Beatty", Time Magazine, May 1, 2000.
  10. ^ Beatty, Paul (January 22, 2006). "Black Humor". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Neate, Patrick (December 6, 2008). "Jukebox sommelier". The Guardian'.
  12. ^ Donnelly, Elisabeth, "Paul Beatty on writing, humor and race: 'There are very few books that are funny'", The Guardian, March 10, 2015.
  13. ^ Eddo-Lodge, Reni, "The Sellout by Paul Beatty review – a whirlwind satire about racial identity", The Guardian, May 11, 2016.
  14. ^ "A Swiftian hero", The Economist, October 29, 2016. Article withdrawn for similarities with other articles, with apology.
  15. ^ "National Book Critics Circle Announces Award Winners for Publishing Year 2015" Archived November 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, March 17, 2016. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  16. ^ Sandhu, Sukhdev, "Paul Beatty: 'Slam poetry, TED talks: they're for short attention spans'", The Guardian, June 24, 2016.
  17. ^ "Sellout Wins 2016 Man Booker Prize" Archived 2016-10-28 at the Wayback Machine. The Man Booker Prize.
  18. ^ Alter, Alexandra, "Paul Beatty Wins Man Booker Prize With 'The Sellout'", The New York Times, October 25, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  19. ^ Masters, Tim (October 26, 2016). "Man Booker Prize: Paul Beatty becomes first US winner for The Sellout". BBC News.
  20. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (October 26, 2016). "Turned down 18 times. Then Paul Beatty won the Booker …". The Guardian.
  21. ^ Alter, Alexandra (March 17, 2016). "'The Sellout' Wins National Book Critics Circle's Fiction Award". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2016.

External links[edit]