Friday Black

Friday Black

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....

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Title:Friday Black
Author:Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
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Friday Black Reviews

  • Marchpane

    Fierce and invigorating, the stories in

    demand attention like a slap in the face.

    This collection inhabits the ‘borderlands’ between genres, to borrow a term from Michael Chabon, sort of literary, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, maybe all-of-the-above at the same time. In one story, it’s hard to tell (in a deliberate, clever way) whether the backdrop is a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic wasteland, or just an ordinary shopping mall. Another takes a Groundhog Day scenario to violent extremes

    Fierce and invigorating, the stories in

    demand attention like a slap in the face.

    This collection inhabits the ‘borderlands’ between genres, to borrow a term from Michael Chabon, sort of literary, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, maybe all-of-the-above at the same time. In one story, it’s hard to tell (in a deliberate, clever way) whether the backdrop is a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic wasteland, or just an ordinary shopping mall. Another takes a Groundhog Day scenario to violent extremes, asking how would people really behave if there were zero consequences, every day ending with a reset? Contemporary issues like race, or rampant consumerism, are explored in surreal and/or futuristic settings.

    The blend of satire, cultural commentary and high-concept genre entertainment that Adjei-Brenyah employs here brings to mind TV anthology series

    or the film

    . It’s a style perfectly suited to the short story format: each one is a quick, sharp jab that leaves behind a powerful impression quite disproportionate to the time it takes to read. There are no dull moments here, and while a few of the stories were stand-outs, the whole collection is consistently great.

    4.5 stars rounded up for sheer gutsiness.

  • Lou

    Named as one of the most anticipated books of Autumn 2018, Friday Black is a refreshingly original anthology of stories that use fiction as a device to explore and discuss some very prominent real-world issues, and because of that, this is a collection that is thought-provoking and with much substance to it - something that always really appeals to me.

    Although the stories maintain objectivity, they are also brutally honest about the situation the world is currently in. Amongst the major real-wor

    Named as one of the most anticipated books of Autumn 2018, Friday Black is a refreshingly original anthology of stories that use fiction as a device to explore and discuss some very prominent real-world issues, and because of that, this is a collection that is thought-provoking and with much substance to it - something that always really appeals to me.

    Although the stories maintain objectivity, they are also brutally honest about the situation the world is currently in. Amongst the major real-world issues that are explored are discrimination (between races, cultures etc), prejudice, capitalism/capitalistic societies, consumerism and materialism. These are merely a few of the problems that make up the core of each of the twelve tales. This is a refreshing, exciting and compelling way to view contemporary subjects.

    This is a wonderful compilation of short stories that speak to the world we currently inhabit. Unless you've been burying your head in the sand for many a long year (actually, more like a couple of decades), each of these separate concerns should be already known to you. Friday Black shines a light on these matters bringing them to the forefront of our minds. This is one of the most enjoyable books I've had the pleasure to read this year, and it certainly lives up to the title of 'most anticipated of 2018'. Friday Black makes the reader think about the state of the world and our future here on earth, it does also have a message of hope which, in my opinion, is absolutely vital right now. Despite having finished reading this quite a while ago, I haven't stopped thinking about it ever since. It feels like a book that will leave an indelible imprint both in my mind and in my heart for the foreseeable. I am already pining for more from Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah., please don't wait too long, we readers need to read more of your wonderful work. This is not only deserving of a wide readership, but it is also worthy of the full five stars!

    Many thanks to riverrun for an ARC. I was not required to post a review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

  • Elyse Walters

    Having recently read “The Heads of The Colored People”, a terrific debut collection of 12 short stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires — I reached for another debut collection of 12 more short stories.

    First - I have Goodreads member Meike to thank. It was her review that inspired me. Thank you Meike.

    So...........

    I had no idea what to expect. I still can’t entirely figure out the book cover’s drawing. I have some ideas - but I’m a little curious if there is a specific meaning behind it.

    I’ll dive r

    Having recently read “The Heads of The Colored People”, a terrific debut collection of 12 short stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires — I reached for another debut collection of 12 more short stories.

    First - I have Goodreads member Meike to thank. It was her review that inspired me. Thank you Meike.

    So...........

    I had no idea what to expect. I still can’t entirely figure out the book cover’s drawing. I have some ideas - but I’m a little curious if there is a specific meaning behind it.

    I’ll dive right in. That’s certainly what the author does with the first story

    called “The Finkelstein 5”. My mouth was hanging open reading it.....”WHAT THE HELL?” I almost didn’t trust myself - maybe I was reading things wrong? The author took brutality, extreme violence ( but thankfully not graphic), injustice, racism, and a broken criminal system to a whole new realm of......”what the f#@k?”

    BUT .... I don’t want spoil the story by dishing out details.

    I totally loved reading these stories knowing nothing about them. I went in completely blind and I was blindsided.

    .....in a good way!

    I didn’t get the point of the next SHORT -SHORT - really really SHORT story. “Things My Mother Said”. I got a message - without much a meal to go with it...

    but as I said it’s ‘short’... so it’s not long enough to irritate. 😊

    Moving on....

    It took me awhile to realize that not only are these stories set in the near future ( not so far out -by any means), but perhaps the author has created a genre of his own:

    “Political Dystopian Fiction”. Adjei-Brenyah examines the Black experience throughput and every story feels political.

    The title story “Friday Black” is priceless ....it’s entertaining in the way dark humor is...but what is actually so disturbing when you really tell the truth to yourself ( but read this story first to get what I’m talking about)...is it will be easy to see the absurdity of people - but what’s less easy to see WE EACH ARE PART OF THIS insanity.

    I can think of times I’ve sat around with people, maybe over a glass of wine talking arrogantly about what other people do that’s nuts - things I wouldn’t do - BUT IF I REALLY LOOK CLOSER -I am part of the same problem that I blame.

    These stories are excellent - terrific debut! It doesn’t take long to learn that we have been introduced to a fearless new author with fresh ideas. We can’t help but look at the political & social issues we grapple with in our current lives.

    Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is a long name. I’d like to remember it - remember HIM.... I don’t want to stumble and feel awkward trying to remember it five months from now

    So.... maybe? He wouldn’t mind if I simply called him *NANA*.....( I can definitely remember that).....

    which brings me warm fuzzy feelings ....loving the dog NANA in Peter Pan.

    I look forward to reading more books by *Nana*!!! Congrats to Nana on his powerful debut short stories!

  • Roxane

    The edge of the stories in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s debut collection Friday Black is razor sharp, ready to cut deep. This book is dark and captivating and essential. This book is a call to arms and it is a condemnation. Adjei-Brenyah offers powerful prose as parable. The writing in this outstanding collection will make you hurt and demand your hope. Read this book. Marvel at the intelligence of each of these stories and what they reveal about racism, capitalism, complacency and their insidious

    The edge of the stories in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s debut collection Friday Black is razor sharp, ready to cut deep. This book is dark and captivating and essential. This book is a call to arms and it is a condemnation. Adjei-Brenyah offers powerful prose as parable. The writing in this outstanding collection will make you hurt and demand your hope. Read this book. Marvel at the intelligence of each of these stories and what they reveal about racism, capitalism, complacency and their insidious reach.

  • Blair

    When a story makes you cry three pages in, you know you're reading something special. 'The Finkelstein 5', the first short story in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut collection, is astounding. It follows a young man named Emmanuel as he prepares for a job interview, taking steps (modifying his voice, wearing smart clothes, smiling and being constantly polite) to ensure his Blackness is dialled down as far as possible. He's happy about the interview, but 'he also felt guilty about feeling happy ab

    When a story makes you cry three pages in, you know you're reading something special. 'The Finkelstein 5', the first short story in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut collection, is astounding. It follows a young man named Emmanuel as he prepares for a job interview, taking steps (modifying his voice, wearing smart clothes, smiling and being constantly polite) to ensure his Blackness is dialled down as far as possible. He's happy about the interview, but 'he also felt guilty about feeling happy about anything. Most people he knew were still mourning the Finkelstein verdict'. A white man has been found not guilty of any wrongdoing in using a chainsaw to decapitate five black children outside the Finkelstein Library. He claims he was protecting his children. The controversial verdict sparks violent protests by groups known as 'Namers', and on his way to the interview, Emmanuel meets an old friend who is keen to act.

    This story is ferocious satire, but it's only a hair's breadth from the truth. In the wake of the death of Trayvon Martin and other similar cases, it really isn't that hard to imagine this actually happening. Emmanuel's awareness and regulation of his Blackness is a brilliant articulation of something that will be immediately recognisable to so many – a tactic painfully familiar to anyone who's ever been part of any sort of minority.

    Nothing else in the book got to me quite like 'The Finkelstein 5', but it's consistently both enjoyable and biting. 'Zimmer Land' is another standout – George Saunders by way of

    The narrator works at a theme park where 'patrons' can role-play a scenario in which they are attacked by, and ultimately 'kill', a black assailant. A trio of stories – 'Friday Black', 'How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing', and 'In Retail' – are set at the Prominent Mall and centre on the day-to-day lives of retail workers. Like 'The Finkelstein 5', 'Friday Black' takes reality and stretches it a little out of shape: the stampedes that accompany Black Friday routinely result in multiple deaths (129 last year); customers speak in a garbled language only Black Friday veterans can understand.

    The collection isn't perfect. 'Lark Street' and 'Light Spitter' both feel like ambitious experiments that don't quite come off. The first is about a man who is haunted by the foetuses his girlriend aborted; the second has a school shooter and his victim teaming up – as ghosts – to try and make things right. I really enjoyed 'Through the Flash', in which a community is trapped in a repeating version of the same day, but like a few of the others it could've done with either editing down or expanding to novel length. Sometimes the concepts are too big for the short-story format.

    is a collection that pulses with ideas and indignation. It incorporates elements of science fiction and magical realism but still has much to say about our lives now. 'The Finkelstein 5' in particular is one of those stories I will never forget.

    Friday Black

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  • Meike

    ..and this is how you write cutting-edge fiction about the world we live in! Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut is bold, powerful, innovative, and poetic. Every other blurb is randomly claiming that the author of the respective book has a unique voice - this author actually does, and this fall, his short stories are mandatory reading.

    "Friday Black" encompasses 12 stories, many of them dealing with racism, consu

    ..and this is how you write cutting-edge fiction about the world we live in! Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut is bold, powerful, innovative, and poetic. Every other blurb is randomly claiming that the author of the respective book has a unique voice - this author actually does, and this fall, his short stories are mandatory reading.

    "Friday Black" encompasses 12 stories, many of them dealing with racism, consumerism, violence, and the culture of egotism and hate - this book is a comment on today's America (which doesn't mean that some of the issues discussed aren't prevalent in other countries as well). What makes this collection so special is the way the author approaches those topics, introducing fantastical elements, projecting the consequences of the cultural climate on invented scenarios and highlighting tendencies by smartly employing hyperbole. Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah wants his readers to look straight into the abyss: A white man kills black kids with a chainsaw and claims self-defense, Black Friday turns a shopping mall into the battleground of the zombie apocalypse, "Good" is now a drug for school children, and there's an amusement park that could have been invented by horror director Eli Roth.

    On Twitter,

    stated that if you like Childish Gambino's "This is America" (

    ), you will also love this - and I see where this comparison is coming from. Also, both of these works of art punch you in the face and leave you in complete shock and awe. In case you need more comparisons: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's voice is as recognizable as that of

    , and his disregard for narrative conventions reminds me of

    .

    Oh, and in case I haven't made this clear enough by now: You should READ THIS BOOK. The whole thing is great, but especially "The Finkelstein 5" and "Zimmer Land".

  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    This was a fun, satirical short story collection about some serious topics. One of the NBA 5 under 35 selections this year.

  • Jessica Woodbury

    FRIDAY BLACK is hard to explain. The best I can do is say that it's like if BLACK MIRROR imagined a future based on the growing horrors of racism, violence, and capitalism rather than the growing horrors of technology. This collection of stories does what really excellent sci-fi does and explores the present through the future. And yet, I feel like I'm still underselling it. I haven't quite made it clear just how reading this book is kind of like probing at a raw wound with a knife. I had to put

    FRIDAY BLACK is hard to explain. The best I can do is say that it's like if BLACK MIRROR imagined a future based on the growing horrors of racism, violence, and capitalism rather than the growing horrors of technology. This collection of stories does what really excellent sci-fi does and explores the present through the future. And yet, I feel like I'm still underselling it. I haven't quite made it clear just how reading this book is kind of like probing at a raw wound with a knife. I had to put it down a few times just to give myself some space. Reading more than one story at a time is an impressive feat of mental strength. This author is one to watch.

  • Paul Fulcher

    Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah was recently named in the US as one of the 2018 ‘5 Under 35’ Honorees by the National Book Foundation, an award for authors aged under 35, who have published their first and only book of fiction within the last five years, and 'whose debut titles provide a first look at their exceptional talent as fiction writers.’ He was nominated by Colson Whitehead, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for his

    .

    This book - Friday Black - a collection of shor

    Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah was recently named in the US as one of the 2018 ‘5 Under 35’ Honorees by the National Book Foundation, an award for authors aged under 35, who have published their first and only book of fiction within the last five years, and 'whose debut titles provide a first look at their exceptional talent as fiction writers.’ He was nominated by Colson Whitehead, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for his

    .

    This book - Friday Black - a collection of short-stories, is the book that won him that honour, and it is certainly a striking debut, with a powerful and distinctive voice, covering both themes highly relevant to the Black Lives Matter campaign, and also on the ills of the US consumerist society. And the stories stray into the speculative fiction area, often based on real life but taking it to another extreme.

    One example is the story that opens the collection, The Finkelstein 5, perhaps my favourite of all. It begins:

    The Finkelstein 5 are five young black kids that have been killed gruesomely by a white father. He claims to have been defending his children, except the only thing that caused a threat appears to have been the colour of their skin, and yet he successfully pleads self-defence in court. The story appears exaggerated but this is 2018 where an off-duty policewoman can shoot an unarmed black man in his own apartment, because she entered the wrong flat and thought it was hers, and then parts of the press can attempt to retro-justify this because there was a tiny amount of cannabis found on the premises, cannabis found when police got a search warrant seemingly for the purpose of retro-finding incriminating evidence.

    In the story Emmanuel attempts to find work in a mall, but when he is unable to do so - the shop has reached its 'quota' and doesn't want to appear too 'urban' by employing too many minority staff - gets caught up in a revenge moment.

    A story with a similar theme, but inventive twist, is Zimmer Land told by an African-American worker in a Westworld like theme park, except the aim of the park is for white citizens to act out their fantasies of defending their families.

    Another highlight - this time focusing on the consumerist theme is Friday Black, one of a number of stories set in a clothing store. Here the shopping frenzy that is today Black Friday is taken to a whole new level, with dead bodies littering the scene:

    And yet the sales person narrating the story is focused more on hitting his targets than saving lives.

    The collection is perhaps less successful when it gets more into dystopian speculative fiction - e.g. the stories Through the Flash or The Era. I am showing my prejudice here against the short-story form, but the stories such as these ones that attempted to build new worlds or set-ups fell a little between two stools - too long for a short-story but not developed enough for a novella: they felt more like sketches for a novel than complete works. And perhaps the other criticism would be that the author is better at arresting openings and creating an interesting set-up, but not quite so good at distinctive endings, which matters more in short-stories than in the longer form.

    Nevertheless a worthwhile collection and a highly promising debut: 3.5 stars

    Thanks to the publisher for the ARC

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