The Sellout (novel)

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The Sellout: A Novel
Sellout by Paul Beatty.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorPaul Beatty
IllustratorMatt Buck
Cover artistRodrigo Corral
CountryUnited States
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date
March 3, 2015
Media typePrint (Hardback)
Pages304 pp.

The Sellout is a 2015 novel by Paul Beatty published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux,[1] and in the UK by Oneworld Publications in 2016. The novel takes place in and around Los Angeles, California, and concerns a protagonist who grows artisanal marijuana and watermelons.[2][3][4] Beatty has stated his motivation for writing the novel was that "[he] was broke".[3]

In October 2016, it won the 2016 Man Booker Prize, making Beatty the first US writer to win that award.[5][6] Historian Amanda Foreman, chair of the judges, said:

"The Sellout is one of those very rare books that is able to take satire, which is in itself a very difficult subject and not always done well, and it plunges into the heart of contemporary American society and, with absolutely savage wit, of the kind I haven't seen since Swift or Twain, both manages to eviscerate every social taboo and politically correct, nuanced, every sacred cow, and while both making us laugh, making us wince. It is both funny and painful at the same time and it is really a novel of our times."[7]


The novel concerns a narrator, referred to by his childhood nickname "Bonbon" or his last name, "Me," who attempts to reintroduce segregation and keep a slave named Hominy in Dickens, his Los Angeles neighborhood. This attempt leads to a Supreme Court case, Me Vs. The United States of America.


The novel was well received by critics, who praised its humor and ostensibly satirical content.[8][9] In The Guardian, Elisabeth Donnelly described it as "a masterful work that establishes Beatty as the funniest writer in America",[10] 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."[11] The HuffPost concluded: "The Sellout is a hilarious, pop-culture-packed satire about race in America. Beatty writes energetically, providing insight as often as he elicits laughs."[9]

Beatty has indicated surprise that critics refer to the novel as a comic one, indicating his belief that discussing the comic aspects of the novel prevents critics from having to discuss its more serious themes.[12] He has also stated that he does not think of himself as a satirist.[12]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ Garner, Dwight (February 26, 2015). "Review: 'The Sellout,' Paul Beatty's Biting Satire on Race in America". The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  2. ^ Schaub, Michael (March 2, 2015). "'The Sellout' Is A Scorchingly Funny Satire On 'Post-Racial' America". NPR. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Reidy, Darren (24 March 2015). "Paul Beatty on Race, Violence and His Scathing New Novel 'The Sellout'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  4. ^ Garner, Dwight (December 10, 2015). "The Top Books of 2015". The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  5. ^ Dean, Michelle (October 25, 2016). "How Paul Beatty's win shakes the Jonathan Franzen-loving US literati". The Guardian. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
  6. ^ Master, Tim, "Man Booker Prize: Paul Beatty becomes first US winner for The Sellout", BBC News, October 26, 2016.
  7. ^ Bullen, James, "Man Booker Prize 2016: US author Paul Beatty wins with The Sellout", Evening Standard, October 25, 2016.
  8. ^ Colter Walls, Seth (March 4, 2015). "The Sellout by Paul Beatty review – a galvanizing satire of post-racial America". The Guardian. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  9. ^ a b Crum, Maddie (March 4, 2015). "The Bottom Line: 'The Sellout' By Paul Beatty". The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  10. ^ Donnelly, Elisabeth, "Paul Beatty on writing, humor and race: 'There are very few books that are funny'", The Guardian, March 10, 2015.
  11. ^ Eddo-Lodge, Reni, "The Sellout by Paul Beatty review – a whirlwind satire about racial identity", The Guardian, May 11, 2016.
  12. ^ a b May, Chris (May 7, 2015). "Our Thing: An Interview with Paul Beatty". The Paris Review. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  13. ^ Alter, Alexandra (March 17, 2016). "'The Sellout' Wins National Book Critics Circle's Fiction Award". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
  14. ^ Alice (September 13, 2016). "Man Booker Prize announces 2016 shortlist". Man Booker. Retrieved July 27, 2016.

External links[edit]