(Fiction; Hyperion, 2001)

Half a century after Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man won the National Book Award and nearly fifteen years after Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize, literary fiction by African American writers still puzzles publishers and reviewers, who generally either laud the work as the product of a black author or deride it for failing to address the “black experience,” as if there were such a thing. Some publishers have tried to capitalize on the confusion by launching “black” imprints, successfully segregating not only the work but also the authors on bookstore shelves. Literature’s most essential strength—its ability to communicate experience, and thereby sympathy, from one person to another—makes it a powerful means of addressing issues of race, but a successful story is a universal story, always.

California-based writer Percival Everett is a modernist whose subjects seem almost intended to flaunt his unwillingness to limit himself to traditionally black concerns.

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