HONR.3300.303: Contemporary African American Literature

Paul Beatty

Paul Beatty

"...you have to ask yourself two questions: Who am I? And how may I become myself?"
from The Sellout

Fran Ross

Excerpt from "Apple Pie with Oreo Crust' a review of Fran Ross' novel Oreo, by Harryette Mullen
"A satire on relations between African Americans and Jews, as well as a topsy-turvy treatment of racial and ethnic shibboleths and stereotypes in American popular culture, Oreo is a formally inventive picaresque novel written as a series of language games, quips, quizzes, comic translations, and bilingual wisecracks. Initially published in an edition of five thousand, Oreo was a rare find for collectors and scholars rummaging in used bookstores before its recent reprinting by Northeastern University Press. Although remarkable for its satirical response to the racial and sexual politics of the 1970s, it failed to find a larger audience, possibly because, in the process of commingling two ghettoized vernaculars, African American and Yiddish, the novel also draws on material that both black and Jewish readers might find offensive or perplexing. Ross's double-edged satire includes: a Jewish immigrant who retains a voodoo consultant named Dr. Macumba; a reverse-discrimination tale of an all-black suburb where a local ordinance is selectively enforced to keep white people from moving into the neighborhood; a black radio producer's script of an advertisement for Passover TV dinners; a joke about the heroine's odds of inheriting sickle-cell anemia and Tay-Sachs disease; and a fight in which Oreo beats a predatory pimp to a pulp while wearing only a pair of sandals, a brassiere, and a mezuzah."