I read this book because I saw a recommendation from a favorite author of mine, George Saunders. This is Adjei-Brenyah’s first book. His dedication is: “For my mom, who said, ‘How can you be bored? How many books have you written?'”
These stories take on some of the big issues: violence in our society based on otherness, genetic engineering and pharmacology, abortion/right to life, consumerism, marketing, capitalism. He pushes to the max to hit us hard, but the stories aren’t screed. The title story, “Friday Black” takes place on Black Friday at the shopping mall. In fact several stories take place there. Things have gotten to the point that deaths at the mall are expected. The main character has a scar on his bicep from a customer bite on a Black Friday in the past. He literally risks life and limb to sell the most crap.
I think my favorite story is “The Hospital Where.” The young man in the story is finding his way into writing, finding out that he must write, that writing has power. The Twelve-tongued God visits him while he’s in the hospital ER with his father, and before you know it he is flexing his power to write happy outcomes for all of the patients. Very meta story!
I look forward to his next book. This is a promising new voice, as they say.
7 comments on “Stories: Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah”
Oooh, this one sounds intriguing. I love this quote from his mother, too cool. And the premise of “The Hospital Where”.
Re George Saunders, I have not read anything by him but Lincoln in the Bardo has been on my reading list for months…
Lincoln in the Bardo is something else again. I listened to it first, which was a crazy experience…but what a list of readers! I couldn’t figure out what in the hell was going on for awhile. Saunders’ short stories are amazing. I’m pretty sure I read the first one in the New Yorker. It was years ago, and I laughed, laughed, laughed at the absurdity of the notion that the law required people to wear shoes with some kind of chips in them that would cause targeted holographic advertisements to appear before them as they walked along the street. Well, now we’re just about there, aren’t we?
I didn’t really talk about Adjei-Brenyah’s evocations of what it is to be a black man in America. The protagonist in the first story speaks of dialing up or down his blackness to try to fit in. He expresses it in numbers to the first decimal place. He can’t get below 1.5, and can only get it that low over the telephone. Really thought-provoking, and there are stunning events in this story. Please tell me it won’t get to this.
I’m glad I am not a fan of Black Friday or shopping malls! “The Hospital Where” must have been a welcome relief. I believe everything starts in the imagination. Dreaming up something wonderful can help to bring it about. We need lots of stories about dreamers who make good things happen!
Friday Black is scariest because some of this could come to be, if we don’t get a handle on this problem. Walk into a superstore and weep.
At 72, I have to say this is the scariest time I have ever experienced in my entire life. In many ways “Friday Black” is here. It is far too easy for me to feel paralyzed by the evils that are being perpetrated by the world’s most powerful leaders, especially our own, and those who are manipulated by them or, even worse, complacent. I need to be reminded of the power of the human spirit to empower love, justice, and action that serves the good. In that spirit, I recommend a Netflix film, “Live to Be Wild” about Mary Reynolds that I happened to be watching when your review was posted. Against great odds, Reynolds won the garden design competition at the Chelsea Garden Show in London—the youngest woman to ever win. The film is based on a true story, and I wanted to know more about her. I found her wonderful website: http://marymary.ie She’s written a book, “The Garden Awakening.” On her website, there is a short video of Jane Goodall endorsing her book. If you need inspiration and/or love to garden, you are in for a treat.
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Barbara, I not too far behind you in age. I keep telling myself that this too shall pass but how can it not leave a hard-to-heal wound behind? We’re leaving the next generations with such difficult problems. I despair for them far more than for myself.
Anyway, thanks for bringing that shaft of light into this discussion. If I had Netflix, I’d watch “Live to be Wild” for certain. Fortunately, I can look at the website!
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Barbara, it is more than a little disconcerting to hear you say that this is the scariest time you have experienced. I have felt that way myself, at 62, but wondered if it was in part because I am paying attention. I remember times in my youth, or even youngish adulthood, when I had the same feeling but the sense of it now is deeper, more pervasive. Like the whole world is shifting, not just a part of it. And that is why places like this, right here, are so important because we make real what matters – communication, engagement, art, language. That is why it is so important that we communicate these things with our children, grandchildren. We must keep talking.
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