In this most holy month of guerrilla bargain shopping which begins with the Happy Holiday season of Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays, I couldn’t think of a better book to review than Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. Both Roxanne Gay and George Saunders are singing the praises of this fresh young author, and everyone should be reading this outstanding collection of short stories.
Adjei-Brenyah’s tales whipsaw between dystopian near futures of shopping madness in “Friday Black,” where stores just pile up the dead bodies so shoppers can consume without disruption, to the boundary-pushing of legal justifications for *freedom* in the age after Trump in “The Finkelstein 5,” to a Groundhog Day version of the end of the world in “Zimmer Land.”
Adjei-Brenyah approaches dystopia from a Black perspective, which brings home the universal axiom that every utopia is always someone’s dystopia. Privilege, in a nutshell, plays out over subtly near-future playgrounds that ring true no matter which side of the colour line we live on.
When a character describes dialling his blackness up and down to suit everyday situations, there is no mistaking that this isn’t a universal practice born from generations of black experience in a white man’s world. It’s both chilling and informative to recognise how often I’ve seen this transformation and felt shame that anyone thought it necessary to pacify my fears. It’s not about me, it’s just the world we live in, and Adjei-Brenyah’s ability to delineate how differently murderous anger and violence are perceived depending only on the colour of one’s skin is masterful in the extreme.
Friday Black might not be the holiday stories you were looking for, but they are definitely the holiday stories we need right now.