Paul Beatty has taken home the 2016 Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sellout – becoming the first American to win the award.
The Sellout is a searing and, incredibly topical, satire of race relations in contemporary America. The novel is narrated by African-American Bonbon, a resident of a run-down town in Los Angeles, which has been removed from the map to save California from embarrassment (and probably some federal oversight).
In the novel Bonbon is being tried in the Supreme Court for attempting to reinstitute slavery and segregation in the local high school in an attempt to restore some sense of order. It is a novel filled with cartoonish characters designed to lampoon and ridicule racial stereotypes, whilst the themes of institutional racism, and the death of Bonbon’s father at the hands of police are particularly topical.
In awarding Beatty with the prize, Amanda Foreman, 2016 Chair of Judges, said this of the novel, “The Sellout is a novel for our times. A tirelessly inventive modern satire, its humour disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.”
Beatty’s win is the first for an American author in the prize’s 48-year history; with the prize opening to US authors in 2014. Beatty’s win also marks the a second consecutive win for independent publisher Oneworld, who also published Marlon James’ 2015 prize winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.
Beatty received £50,000 in prize money for taking home the award, as well as £2,500 for being shortlisted. However, just as importantly, the prize will also undoubtedly provide a boost in sales for The Sellout.
The Sellout by Paul Beatty is available now through Oneworld Publishing. The novel is distributed in Australia through Bloomsbury Australia.