11 Sep / Friday Black: Stories by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah [in Booklist]
Adjei-Brenyah’s dozen stories are disturbingly spectacular, made even more so for what he does with magnifying and exposing the truth. At first read, the collection might register as speculative fiction, but current headlines unmasking racism, injustice, consumerism, and senseless violence prove to be clear inspirations.
Adjei-Brenyah grabs immediate attention with “The Finkelstein 5,” in which a white man uses “a chain saw to hack off the heads of five black children” outside a South Carolina library. His acquittal sparks revenge attacks, eventually luring the story’s protagonist, a teenager who works hard to keep his “Blackness” in the lowest digits on a 10-point scale, to further tragedy.
Hate crimes become actual entertainment in “Zimmer Land,” in which clients pay for “interactive justice engagement” in a race-based-murder-theme-park. “Friday Black” exaggerates Black Friday shopping mania into a casual blood-sport, while shopping becomes a year-round battlefield in the related “How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing.” A teen meets the twin fetuses his girlfriend aborted in “Lark Street,” and tortuous death and revival form a relentless cycle in “Through the Flash.”
Ominous and threatening, Adjei-Brenyah’s debut is a resonating wake-up call to redefine and reclaim what remains of our humanity.