Reviews for Friday Black

by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Adjei-Brenyah's dozen stories are disturbingly spectacular, made even more so for what he does with magnifying and exposing the truth. At first read, the collection might register as speculative fiction, but current headlines unmasking racism, injustice, consumerism, and senseless violence prove to be clear inspirations. Adjei-Brenyah grabs immediate attention with The Finkelstein 5, in which a white man uses a chain saw to hack off the heads of five black children outside a South Carolina library. His acquittal sparks revenge attacks, eventually luring the story's protagonist, a teenager who works hard to keep his Blackness in the lowest digits on a 10-point scale, to further tragedy. Hate crimes become actual entertainment in Zimmer Land, in which clients pay for interactive justice engagement in a race-based-murder-theme-park. Friday Black exaggerates Black Friday shopping mania into a casual blood-sport, while shopping becomes a year-round battlefield in the related How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing. A teen meets the twin fetuses his girlfriend aborted in Lark Street, and tortuous death and revival form a relentless cycle in Through the Flash. Ominous and threatening, Adjei-Brenyah's debut is a resonating wake-up call to redefine and reclaim what remains of our humanity.--Terry Hong Copyright 2018 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

DEBUT In "Zimmer Land," a core story in this edgy, much-anticipated debut collection from Breakwater Review prize winner -Adjei-Brenyah, patrons at a specially designed theme park can get the visceral thrill of standing up to perceived bad guys and often pretending to kill them, thus achieving a putative sense of justice. The Wall Streeter who founded it says he was aiming for "social interconnectivity," but the park is clearly a racist, consumerist venture exploiting white fears and desire for predominance, and reading it cuts to the bone. Adjei-Brenyah's stories are like that, often using scenarios stepping just beyond reality to make us understand how ugly reality is, especially as experienced by those of color. In "The Finkelstein 5," horribly reminiscent of recent headlines, five African American children have been beheaded outside a library by a white man claiming to fear for his children's safety, prompting retaliation; the conflicted narrator explains how he adjusts his Blackness throughout the day ("his voice down to a 1.5 on a 10-point scale")-an act some readers will know from their own lives and others will shudder finally to understand. -VERDICT Powerful work for a wide range of readers. [See Prepub Alert, 6/18/18.] Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Adjei-Brenyah dissects the dehumanizing effects of capitalism and racism in this debut collection of stingingly satirical stories. The arguments that exonerate a white man for brutally murdering five black children with a chainsaw in "The Finkelstein 5" highlight the absurdity of America's broken criminal justice system. "Zimmer Land" imagines a future entertainment park where players enter an augmented reality to hunt terrorists or shoot intruders played by minority actors. The title story is one of several set in a department store where the store's best salesman learns to translate the incomprehensible grunts of vicious, insatiable Black Friday shoppers. He returns in "How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing" to be passed over for a promotion despite his impeccable record. Some stories take a narrower focus, such as "The Lion & the Spider," in which a high school senior has to take a demanding job to keep money flowing into his family's house after his father's disappearance. In "Light Spitter," a school shooting results in both the victim and gunman stuck in a shared purgatory. "Through the Flash" spins a dystopian Groundhog Day in which victims of an unexplained weapon relive a single day and resort to extreme violence to cope. Adjei-Brenyah has put readers on notice: his remarkable range, ingenious premises, and unflagging, momentous voice make this a first-rate collection. Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, DeFiore and Company. (Oct.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Adjei-Brenyah's dozen stories are disturbingly spectacular, made even more so for what he does with magnifying and exposing the truth. At first read, the collection might register as speculative fiction, but current headlines unmasking racism, injustice, consumerism, and senseless violence prove to be clear inspirations. Adjei-Brenyah grabs immediate attention with The Finkelstein 5, in which a white man uses a chain saw to hack off the heads of five black children outside a South Carolina library. His acquittal sparks revenge attacks, eventually luring the story's protagonist, a teenager who works hard to keep his Blackness in the lowest digits on a 10-point scale, to further tragedy. Hate crimes become actual entertainment in Zimmer Land, in which clients pay for interactive justice engagement in a race-based-murder-theme-park. Friday Black exaggerates Black Friday shopping mania into a casual blood-sport, while shopping becomes a year-round battlefield in the related How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing. A teen meets the twin fetuses his girlfriend aborted in Lark Street, and tortuous death and revival form a relentless cycle in Through the Flash. Ominous and threatening, Adjei-Brenyah's debut is a resonating wake-up call to redefine and reclaim what remains of our humanity.--Terry Hong Copyright 2018 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

DEBUT In "Zimmer Land," a core story in this edgy, much-anticipated debut collection from Breakwater Review prize winner -Adjei-Brenyah, patrons at a specially designed theme park can get the visceral thrill of standing up to perceived bad guys and often pretending to kill them, thus achieving a putative sense of justice. The Wall Streeter who founded it says he was aiming for "social interconnectivity," but the park is clearly a racist, consumerist venture exploiting white fears and desire for predominance, and reading it cuts to the bone. Adjei-Brenyah's stories are like that, often using scenarios stepping just beyond reality to make us understand how ugly reality is, especially as experienced by those of color. In "The Finkelstein 5," horribly reminiscent of recent headlines, five African American children have been beheaded outside a library by a white man claiming to fear for his children's safety, prompting retaliation; the conflicted narrator explains how he adjusts his Blackness throughout the day ("his voice down to a 1.5 on a 10-point scale")-an act some readers will know from their own lives and others will shudder finally to understand. -VERDICT Powerful work for a wide range of readers. [See Prepub Alert, 6/18/18.] Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Edgy humor and fierce imagery coexist in these stories with shrewd characterization and humane intelligence, inspired by volatile material sliced off the front pages.The state of race relations in post-millennial America haunts most of the stories in this debut collection. 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. "The Finkelstein 5," the opener, deals with the furor surrounding the murder trial of a white man claiming self-defense in slaughtering five black children with a chainsaw. The story is as prickly in its view toward black citizens seeking their own justice as it is pitiless toward white bigots pressing for an acquittal. An even more caustic companion story, "Zimmer Land," is told from the perspective of an African-American employee of a mythical theme park whose white patrons are encouraged to act out their fantasies of dispensing brutal justice to people of color they regard as threatening on sight, or "problem solving," as its mission statement calls it. Such dystopian motifs recur throughout the collection: "The Era," for example, identifies oppressive class divisions in a post-apocalyptic school district where self-esteem seems obtainable only through regular injections of a controlled substance called "Good." The title story, meanwhile, riotously reimagines holiday shopping as the blood-spattered zombie movie you sometimes fear it could be in real life. As alternately gaudy and bleak as such visions are, there's more in Adjei-Brenyah's quiver besides tough-minded satire, as exhibited in "The Lion the Spider," a tender coming-of-age story cleverly framed in the context of an African fable.Corrosive dispatches from the divided heart of America. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Adjei-Brenyah dissects the dehumanizing effects of capitalism and racism in this debut collection of stingingly satirical stories. The arguments that exonerate a white man for brutally murdering five black children with a chainsaw in "The Finkelstein 5" highlight the absurdity of America's broken criminal justice system. "Zimmer Land" imagines a future entertainment park where players enter an augmented reality to hunt terrorists or shoot intruders played by minority actors. The title story is one of several set in a department store where the store's best salesman learns to translate the incomprehensible grunts of vicious, insatiable Black Friday shoppers. He returns in "How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing" to be passed over for a promotion despite his impeccable record. Some stories take a narrower focus, such as "The Lion & the Spider," in which a high school senior has to take a demanding job to keep money flowing into his family's house after his father's disappearance. In "Light Spitter," a school shooting results in both the victim and gunman stuck in a shared purgatory. "Through the Flash" spins a dystopian Groundhog Day in which victims of an unexplained weapon relive a single day and resort to extreme violence to cope. Adjei-Brenyah has put readers on notice: his remarkable range, ingenious premises, and unflagging, momentous voice make this a first-rate collection. Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, DeFiore and Company. (Oct.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

When asked in a New York Times Book Review interview why he writes political stories, Adjei-Brenyah answered, "If the house is on fire, I'm not going to write about what's in the fridge." In his smart, darkly funny debut collection of short stories, society itself seems on fire with racism, mob mentality, rampant consumerism, and the glorification of violence. Adjei-Brenyah sets the unflinching tone for the collection with the first story, "The Finkelstein 5," in which groups of vigilantes dole out their version of justice after a chainsaw-wielding white man is acquitted of murdering five black children outside a public library. In "Zimmer Land," a client can pay for the opportunity to commit a hate crime in a scenario disturbingly close to the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. In "Friday Black" and "How To Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing," consumerism has become blood sport, and casualties are literally swept out of the way so the bargain hunting can continue unabated. The casual, conversational tone used by narrators -Corey Allen and Carra Patterson adds to the horror-the stories feel only slightly hyperbolic, even as they are completely unnerving. -VERDICT Brilliant and tragic, this is essential for all fiction collections. ["Powerful work for a wide range of readers": LJ 8/18 review of the Houghton Harcourt hc.]-Beth Farrell, -Cleveland State Univ. Law Lib. Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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