Recommended Black Satire Books

Here are nine titles that pair well with Paul Beatty’s The Sellout.

black satire books
Alta

Paul Beatty’s The Sellout—a tragicomic novel that charts how a Black man ends up on trial at the Supreme Court for reinstating segregation in his Los Angeles neighborhood—emerges from a rich tradition of Black American literary satire. Below are some titles that pair well with The Sellout, which Alta’s California Book Club will discuss at its February 18 gathering.

To join Alta’s California Book Club conversation with Beatty on February 18, click here.

Black No More (1931), by George S. Schuyler
black no more, george s schuyler
Penguin

The central question this novel seeks to answer is, What would happen if every Black person in America turned white? When the mad scientist Dr. Julius Crookman invents a device to make that possible, our protagonist, Max Disher, finds himself on an adventure into a new world.

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Invisible Man (1952), by Ralph Ellison
invisible man, ralph ellison
Vintage

Considered an “epic milestone of American literature,” Invisible Man charts the life of an unnamed Black character who, after a series of wild events, coincidences, and accidents, winds up living in a basement lair.

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Oreo (1974), by Fran Ross
oreo, fran ross
New Directions Publishing

The eponymous protagonist, who is the daughter of an absent Black mother and an absent white father, embarks on an odyssey through the labyrinth of New York City to reclaim her roots.

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Flight to Canada (1976), by Ishmael Reed
flight to canada, ishmael reed
Scribner Book Company

We follow three enslaved people, who are “infected” with dysaethesia aethiopica (a pseudoscientific medical term coined in the 19th century to describe laziness among the enslaved), as they run away to Canada.

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Erasure (2001), by Percival Everett
erasure, percival everett
Graywolf Press

An incisive critique of the writing and publishing industry, Erasure follows a man who, after years of struggling to publish his work, writes a novel that is based on Richard Wright’s Native Son and Sapphire’s Push.

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Friday Black (2018), by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
friday black,  nana kwame adjei brenyah
Mariner Books

From the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honoree comes an electric debut short story collection that offers a surreal and satirical take on what it means to be Black and alive in America right now.

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Heads of the Colored People (2018), by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
heads of the colored people, nafissa thompson spires
37 Ink

Here’s another short story collection that illuminates the precarity of Black citizenship and identity with dark humor and incisive wit.

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We Cast a Shadow (2019), by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
we cast a shadow, maurice carlos ruffin
One World

Hailed as a much-needed read for fans of The Sellout and Get Out, this novel follows a father’s desire to protect his biracial son, even if that means encouraging him to turn white as he becomes more and more dark.

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Black Buck (2021), by Mateo Askaripour
black buck, mateo askaripour
Houghton Mifflin

Described as the cross between the films Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street, Black Buck tracks a young man as he takes on a position as the only Black salesman at a cultish and successful startup.

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