The Sellout by Paul Beatty

The Sellout

Paul Beatty

A witty, crazy tale of one man’s fight to reinstate his neighbourhood on the map of LA.

People eat the shit you shovel them.

When the ‘agrarian ghetto’ of Dickens is surreptitiously disappeared one night by the LA authorities, its borders disintegrated and its signage removed, one man (an unnamed black narrator) decides to take a stand. Using deliberately contentious methods, such as demanding his right to have slaves and putting segregation signs up about town, the narrator draws those around him into a dialogue about race and racism.

This is a mad, irreverent and brutally honest satire examining racism in America from all conceivable angles and laying it bare for the reader. Clever, complicated, and rich in characterisation, this is a book which grabs you by the lapels and won’t let go until the last exhausted page has been turned. A must read.


Why do you think the books is entitled ‘The Sellout’?

Why do you think Beatty chose the characters that he surrounds his narrator with: Hominy, Marpessa, Foy Cheshire, King Cuz?

How and why does the book weave in the past and the present through the narrator’s memories of his father?

Is there an element of nostalgia in the book, relating to the farm and its produce? Why do you think Beatty included this?

Did the book make you rethink your own views on race and racism?

If you were a resident of Dickens, would you have chosen to help the narrator in his aim?

What did you think of the ending of the book?

Why do you think the narrator calls the meeting group, the ‘Dum Dum Donuts Intellectuals’?


The narrator is waiting with his now-girlfriend, Marpessa, to hear the Supreme Court’s judgement and to know whether he will go to jail for enslaving Hominy. We do not hear the result, but the weather forecast comes onto the TV and the temperature for Dickens is given – Dickens is back on the map and the narrator cries with happiness. The final chapter, entitled ‘Closure’, recalls a day when Foy Cheshire is cheering because of the election of a black president and stating that the United States of America has finally paid off its debts. But the narrator then asks him about the Native Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, poor, forests, water, air, etc.

The Sellout was the winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2016.


View this post on Instagram

A CONTEMPORARY CLASSIC * A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, #TheSellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game.  Born in Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, the narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject in his father's racially charged psychological studies. He is told that his father's work will lead to a memoir that will solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed in a drive-by shooting, he discovers there never was a memoir. All that's left is a bill for a drive-through funeral. What's more, Dickens has literally been wiped off the map to save California from further embarrassment. Fuelled by despair, the narrator sets out to right this wrong with the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court. In his trademark absurdist style, which has the uncanny ability to make readers want to both laugh and cry, The Sellout is an outrageous and outrageously entertaining indictment of our time. Published March 2016. Design: @rodrigocorral_

A post shared by Oneworld Publications (@oneworldpublications) on


Latest from the Blog

What to read after you finish Mantel

Finished Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell Trilogy? We’ve put together a list of historical fiction books you may want to read next.

Read More

How to Start an Online Book Club

Now is a great time to launch that online book club you’ve always wanted, but how do you start? Follow these simple guidelines to be up and running in no time.

Read More

Female Writers under Pseudonym

One of the techniques employed by women during the 19th century was the use of a pen name or nom de plume, often using initials or masculine names, to help conceal their sex.

Read More

The Last Page – 10 Posthumous Releases

Ever wondered which books were published after the author’s death? Here are 10 posthumous releases that have since achieved attention.

Read More