A piercingly raw debut story collection from a young writer with an explosive voice; a treacherously surreal, and, at times, heartbreakingly satirical look at what it’s like to be young and black in America.
From the start of this extraordinary debut, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities of life in this country.
These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. In “The Finkelstein Five,” Adjei-Brenyah gives us an unforgettable reckoning of the brutal prejudice of our justice system. In “Zimmer Land,” we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport. And “Friday Black” and “How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King” show the horrors of consumerism and the toll it takes on us all.
Entirely fresh in its style and perspective, and sure to appeal to fans of Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, and George Saunders, Friday Black confronts readers with a complicated, insistent, wrenching chorus of emotions, the final note of which, remarkably, is hope.
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The edge of the stories in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s debut collection Friday Black is razor sharp, ready to cut deep. This book is dark and captivating and essential. This book is a call to arms and it is a condemnation. Adjei-Brenyah offers powerful prose as parable. The writing in this outstanding collection will make you hurt and demand your hope. Read this book. Marvel at the intelligence of each of these stories and what they reveal about racism, capitalism, complacency and their insidious reach.” —Roxane Gay
“For literature to bring forth such an astonishing new voice as Nana K. Adjei-Brenyah’s—tender and furious, wise and wise-assed—marks a major leap forward for us all. The very first story brought me to tears, putting me in mind of Babel or Chekhov. And Adjei-Brenyah keeps doing that—dragging you through dystopic muck and mire before landing you in a transcendent spiritual place. This is the fiction debut of the year, and I can’t cheer it loudly enough. Bravo, young man. We await your encore.”
“These stories are an excitement and a wonder: strange, crazed, urgent and funny, yet classical in the way they take on stubborn human problems: the depravities of capitalism, love struggling to assert itself within heartless systems. The wildly talented Adjei-Brenyah has made these edgy tales immensely charming, via his resolute, heartful, immensely likeable narrators, capable of seeing the world as blessed and cursed at once.”
“Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has written an exciting, dazzling collection of stories. He writes with a ferocious wit and a big heart. His inventive fictional worlds speak both directly and covertly to this political moment in unexpected and fresh ways. Friday Black marks the thrilling debut of an important new voice in fiction.”
—Dana Spiotta, author of the National Book Award finalist Eat the Document and Innocents and Others
“Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is a name you better get used to saying. The funny, uncompromising voice heard here for the first time, one that’s not afraid to wander past the checkpoints of realism in order to get at the nature of the American real, will be with us for a long time to come. ‘The Finkelstein Five’ already reads like a classic, even though it stings like it was written this morning.”
—Jonathan Dee, author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Privileges and The Locals
“Riveting. Every word. An impassioned interrogation of the human condition on the blackhand side, a true work of wonder, just reeking of significance. Here be Nana Kwame, scaling all manner of emotional registers while maintaining a stunning textual authority. And just when you think you’ve settled in, here comes Anansi and the Twelve-Tongued God working other dimensions in a seamless blend. He makes it look effortless but the clarity of the craft is self-evident, a numinous voice powering stories and characters that will inhabit your consciousness long after you’ve finished it and tried to put it down. In this impressive debut of a literary voice both new and edgy, we find an ancient griot telling stories of startling grace, gathering folk around the sacred fire and word by word forging the visions without which the people would perish. Testimony.”
—Arthur Flowers, author of Another Good Loving Blues and I See the Promised Land
“Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has a cool eye, bright mind, and high style. His stories are solid, they’re unusual, imaginative, disturbing, wry, tender, funny. Bursting with surprising language and formal invention, they plant the zeitgeist onto the page. It lives in Friday Black, in all its complexity, trouble, and possibility. Writing this distinctive and good, especially in our uneasy time, is genuinely a cause for celebration.”
—Lynne Tillman, author of Men and Apparitions
“The stories in this collection are aching and powerful dispatches on race, violence, and the modern world.”
“Tackling issues like criminal justice, consumerism, and racism, these timely stories are searching for humanity in a brutal world. The collection is both heartbreaking and hopeful.”
“The stories in the collection have a dystopian bent and are told with dark humor and a clear-eyed understanding of human failings.”
—Poets & Writers
“Edgy humor and fierce imagery coexist in these stories with shrewd characterization and humane intelligence, inspired by volatile material sliced off the front pages… Yet Adjei-Brenyah brings to what pundits label our ‘ongoing racial dialogue’ a deadpan style, an acerbic perspective, and a wicked imagination that collectively upend readers’ expectations… Corrosive dispatches from the divided heart of America.” –Kirkus Reviews, *STARRED* review
“Adjei-Brenyah dissects the dehumanizing effects of capitalism and racism in this debut collection of stingingly satirical stories… Adjei-Brenyah has put readers on notice: his remarkable range, ingenious premises, and unflagging, momentous voice make this a first-rate collection.” –Publishers Weekly, *STARRED* review
“Adjei-Brenyah’s dozen stories are disturbingly spectacular, made even more so for what he does with magnifying and exposing the truth…Ominous and threatening, Adjei-Brenyah’s debut is a resonating wake-up call to redefine and reclaim what remains of our humanity.” —Booklist, *STARRED* review
“An urgent satiric voice” – Writers to Watch, Publishers Weekly
“Prescient, dark, and deeply empathetic, visceral and inventive, these stories announce Adjei-Brenyah as both an astute cultural critic and a truthteller.”
—Nafissa Thompson-Spires, author of Heads of the Colored People
“Adjei-Brenyah’s haunting collection is a work of modern-day surrealism, offering us tales which speak to the travesties of our time. Here are the stories of Trayvon Martin, of school shootings, of bloodthirsty capitalism and its unending injustices. And here, too, are stories of good people engaged in the spiritual work of love and kindness. Adjei-Brenyah is a radical absurdist, telling truth-tales to help us all see our world more clearly. ”
—Alexander Weinstein, author of Children of the New World
“A striking collection, by turns witty, insightful and brutally honest. Adjei-Brenyah’s inventive language conjures worlds with brevity, specificity and a dark, absurdist humor. An exciting voice.”
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and Sorry Please Thank You