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BOOK REVIEW: Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

| 23 February 2019 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

October 2018
Hardcover, $26.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Short Stories / Science Fiction



In the stories of Adjei-Brenyah’s debut, an amusement park lets players enter augmented reality to hunt terrorists or shoot intruders played by minority actors, a school shooting results in both the victim and gunman stuck in a shared purgatory, and an author sells his soul to a many-tongued god.

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 that black men and women contend with every day. These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world.


Every one of these stories is unflinching and brutal, with comments on race, consumerism, and the “us vs them” mentality that’s be rife in today’s world.

Most people he knew were still mourning the Finkelstein verdict: after twenty-eight minutes of deliberation, a jury of his peers had acquitted George Wilson Dunn of any wrongdoing whatsoever. He had been indicted for allegedly using a chain saw to hack off the heads of five black children outside the Finkelstein Library in Valley Ridge, South Carolina. The court had ruled that because the children were basically loitering and not actually inside the library reading, as one might expect of productive members of society, it was reasonable that Dunn had felt threatened by these five black young people and, thus, he was well within his rights when he protected himself, his library-loaned DVDs, and his children by going into the back of his Ford F-150 and retrieving his Hawtech PRO eighteen-inch 48cc chain saw.

Were it not for the sudden, often unresolved or unclear endings, this would likely have been a nine or ten out of ten read. Basically, what I’m saying is I would have liked more words from Adjei-Brenyah, but that doesn’t mean these short, sharp stories didn’t pack one hell of a punch.

There’s a shriek, and Fuckton looks around and sees people sprinting away from him. “S-sorry,” Fuckton says before he can stop himself. A ridiculous thing to say, he knows. He stares at the dead girl, the one he himself, with the help of a gray/black pistol nicknamed Whiptail, just banished from the earth. He waits for the glory to fill him. Eyes wide, he absorbs the body in front of him more intimately. The face is so broken. It terrifies him. There’s blood everywhere. On his lips, in his hair. He looks at her one more time, then Fuckton turns and runs. He trips on a rug edge and falls on his knees. Whiptail blasts a shot off into the floor. The boom scares Fuckton just as much as it scares all the running, screaming people. So much running and screaming.

With twelve stories in a little under 200 pages, there is often not much time to flesh out the world, but there are some stories that revisit the same setting from different points of view, and a few stories that are longer than average and really stand out, and will come back to the reader’s mind again and again after the book is done.

“What happened next?”
Vroom, I had my young children, Tiffany and Rodman, behind me so I could, vroom, vroom, protect them.”
“What exactly does that mean?”
“That I revved my saw and got to cutting.”
“You ‘got to cutting’? Please, Mister Dunn. Please be specific.”
Vroom. I cut that basketball player’s head clean, vroom, off.”

If you appreciate words strung together in such a way that they are exceptionally beautiful and gory all at once, you’re bound to love this title, and you’re also bound to come out of it assessing your world view and wanting more.

He’s the protégé of Knife Queen Ama. The Ama who started with one knife and ended with three blades and two guns, who could kill all one hundred and sixteen people on my cluster in one hour and twenty-two minutes. I’d take a shower and change halfway through because my clothes got so heavy. Every inch of my black skin painted the maroon of life. The old Ama would murder everyone because, when everyone was gone, she got to feel like she was the only one in the world and there was no one who might ever do her wrong again.

I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more books by this author, but can only hope that next time it might be a longer work, like a novel, so we can see the full scope of his world-building and maybe come out with a few more answers. 






Category: Book Reviews

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