Book Review: Sellout

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by James W. Lewis

    Publication Date:
    List Price: $15.00
    Format: Paperback, 292 pages
    Classification: Fiction
    ISBN13: 9780982719305
    Imprint: The Pantheon Collective (TPC)
    Publisher: The Pantheon Collective (TPC)
    Parent Company: The Pantheon Collective (TPC)
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    Book Reviewed by Robert Fleming

    This debut novel, written by James Lewis, deals with the thorny issue of interracial dating from every side, rendered with narrative precision and emotional detail. Tammy McDonald, an attractive loan officer, is tired of the current crop of ebony slackers and tired gangstas and figures Dale Bristol could be just the right touch in her romantic life. She feels that Dale, a white man, could fit seamlessly in her scheme of things, but love rarely goes according to plan.

    Statistics say that well-educated, highly achieving African- American professionals have difficulty finding suitable mates, just like Terrell Jackson, a successful optometrist, who has his pick of females in his dreams. When he reveals to his girl, Tasha, about his infidelity in his sleep, she flips out and accuses him of cheating and worse. Terrell thinks he needs to find a white female, who is more understanding and less likely of emotional outbursts.

    Probably the most quirky character remains Penelope Miller, a Southern belle who loves her men chocolate, despite her racist upbringing and tradition. Although some of this scenario comes straight out of the stereotypical "Mandingo" myth, it satisfies only because of Lewis's clever way with word and image. Like all of his quartet of characters, he refuses to indulge in the clichéd, easy formula, choosing themes and situations which have substance and are genuinely realistic. He makes the readers believe the characters and understand their motives.

    Here Lewis, a novelist and a freelance writer, truly gets into the psyche of Penelope, the white female, on the issue of her father's idea of white male superiority: "…I felt good, strangely enough. Like I'd broken the power he had over me. All my life, a cloud of fear hovered over the females in the house. In Dad's twisted mind, anyone with a vagina equated to servant and dark skin meant less than human. Well, I showed him. He couldn't control what I do, who I see." (pg. 205)

    Lewis's novel, Sellout, rates among the best of the Black fiction dealing with the cultural, social and erotic challenges of sex and race. The author never takes the predictable path. The book belongs to the accomplished, quality classic works by our wordsmiths on these themes such as James Baldwin's Another Country, Kristin Hunter's The Landlord, and Ann Petry's The Narrows. It is truly worthy of our attention.

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