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The Sellout by Paul Beatty Discussion Guide: Home

Book discussion guide for The Sellout by Paul Beatty. Check here for reviews, interviews, read-alikes, discussion questions, and more!

Paul Beatty

Photo courtesy of the Macmillan Publishers.

Read more about the author in Biography in Context.

Other Books by Paul Beatty

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Discussion Questions

1. Do you find this book offensive? Why or why not? What other readers might take offense at The Sellout? Why is Paul Beatty's language so incendiary?

2. in his lengthy Barnes & Noble review, Stefan Beck says that The Sellout will "shock all of us into reexamining what we think we know about race in America." Did the book have that effect on you? Did it alter how you, personally, view black-white relations in the US?

3. What is the thematic significance (and humor) in the fact that the father of the book's narrator dropped the double-e from his last name, resulting in the surname Me—and, thus, the title of the Supreme Court case, Me vs. the United States?

4. How off-putting, or difficult, did you find the first 300 pages or so of this book? Was it difficult to follow the narrative thread, to get your "fictional footing"? Why might the author have opened his book with this stylistic technique?

5. What is the purpose of instituting slavery? What does Me hope to accomplish by doing so?

6. What do you think of the white woman who utters this: "[Y]ou're a beautiful woman who just happens to be black, and you're far too smart not to know that it isn't race that's the problem but class"? What do you think of her statement? What do you think the author thinks of it?

7. What about academia? What does Beatty think of black intellectuals and, particularly, the attempt to sanitize Twain's classic?

I also improved Jim's diction, rejiggered the plotline a bit, and retitled the book The Pejorative-Free Adventures and Intellectual and Spiritual Journeys of African-American Jim and His Young Protege, White Brother Huckleberry Finn, as They Go in Search of the Lost Black Family Unit.

(By the way, pay attention to the use of the word "rejiggered.")

8. What is the title's significance? First, what is a sellout?—define it. What is being sold out...or who is being sold out...and who is doing the selling out?

(Questions by LitLovers)

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