What Is 'The Sellout' About?

On Tuesday, panel chairwoman Dr. Amanda Foreman presented American author Paul Beatty with the 2016 Man Booker Prize, a prestigious literary award bestowed upon one English language novel every year. If you haven't gotten a chance to read the prize-winning novel, you may be wondering, what is The Sellout about? The satirical novel is a must read.

The Sellout , Paul Beatty's fourth book and one that took him seven years to write, tells the story of a young black man in Los Angeles who tries to reintroduce slavery and segregation in his own neighborhood. After his psychologist father was killed in a police shooting, the book's narrator, who goes by Me, devotes his life to getting his rundown hometown of Dickens put back on the map and save it from being wiped from existence. To do this, he decides, he is going to have to take some drastic measures. Alongside town celebrity and former Little Rascal Hominy Jenkins, Me segregates the local high school and even gets himself a slave, a crime that eventually puts him in front of the Supreme Court.

A satirical look at race relations and politics, The Sellout artfully uses comedy and humor to expose real-life racial injustices, stereotypes, and deep-rooted beliefs within American history and culture. From the narrator, Me's, own inner dialogue to the details around his father's fatal shooting by police, Beatty's novel doesn't pull any punches when it comes to talking about the tough stuff, the real problems of racism facing our country today. Funny as it is heartbreaking, The Sellout is like taking a fierce and fearless deep-dive into a world even crazier — but not by much — than our own.

Hailed by critics as one of "the most important and difficult American novels written in the 21st century" and "the first truly great satirical novel of the century," Beatty, the first ever American author to take home the Booker Prize, unanimously beat out 154 other books considered by this year's judges, Amanda Foreman (Chair), Jon Day, Abdulrazak Gurnah, David Harsent, and Olivia Williams, to win the £50,000 ($61,000) prize.