Friday Black

Length: 7 hrs and 8 mins
4 out of 5 stars (244 ratings)

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

OR
In cart

Publisher's Summary

A piercingly raw debut story collection from a young writer with an explosive voice; a treacherously surreal and, at times, heartbreakingly satirical look at what it's like to be young and black in America. 

From the start of this extraordinary debut, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's writing will grab you, haunt you, and 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 in this country. These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. 

In "The Finkelstein Five", Adjei-Brenyah gives us an unforgettable reckoning of the brutal prejudice of our justice system. In "Zimmer Land", we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport. And "Friday Black" and "How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King" show the horrors of consumerism and the toll it takes on us all. 

Entirely fresh in its style and perspective and sure to appeal to fans of Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, and George Saunders, Friday Black confronts listeners with a complicated, insistent, wrenching chorus of emotions, the final note of which, remarkably, is hope.

©2018 Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (P)2018 Recorded Books
What members say
Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    111
  • 4 Stars
    68
  • 3 Stars
    46
  • 2 Stars
    10
  • 1 Stars
    9
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    130
  • 4 Stars
    60
  • 3 Stars
    24
  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    8
Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    102
  • 4 Stars
    60
  • 3 Stars
    43
  • 2 Stars
    16
  • 1 Stars
    10

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

More than violent

I had read that this book if short stories contained a lot of violence, and I tolerate violence well. But these stories for the most part took on a futuristic and absurd lens so that people were eviscerated and their lives seemed meaningless. The first 2/3 were manageable, not so the last.
I hope I don't sound ignorant as a white reader-i have read reviews where these haunted stories evoke a black experience that is surreal in its gruesomeness-and I can recognize this quality in many of the stories, however, for me, it rendered life as too horrific to even imagine. Perhaps that's the point.

59 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

An Authentic Magical Realist Masterpiece

Adjei-Brenyah is a brilliant story teller whose prose is as intrepidly creative as it is utterly unpretentious. The stories in this collection present us with characters who inhabit profoundly real dystopian worlds. These are worlds where the oppressed lose all fear in their quest for a justice indistinguishable from vengeance; where aborted fetuses speak to their grieving parents; where murderous anti-black vigilantism becomes a booming theme park industry paying enterprising people of color better than other jobs; where retail becomes the new plantation; and where human beings become radioactive projections of their former selves as they simply and rawly exist in the bittersweet hell of an endless apocalyptic loop.

By taking us into these varied yet closely related and even overlapping worlds of his fertile imagination, Adjei-Brenyah invites us not only to be seriously entertained, as we experience any number of wide-ranging and conflicting emotions. He also invites us to think deeply about the kind of world we inhabit and whether, when viewed in the mirrors of these worlds and their heroes and heroines, we like what we see.

21 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Racism, Consumerism, Alienation, and Fantasy

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black (2018) is a collection of 12 short stories about racism, consumerism, and alienation. Most of the stories are told by first-person narrators, most of whom are male. The cleanly written stories range in genre from magical realism (or urban fantasy) to sf dystopia and in mood from horror to humor and from outrage to acceptance.

Here follows a brief, annotated list of the stories.

“The Finkelstein 5” is an excoriating satire of the racism directed at African Americans, especially in the arena of “justice.” Here a white man has been acquitted after chainsaw massacring five African American kids because his lawyer successfully argued that he was acting in all-American self-defense. In that context, the protagonist Emmanuel defiantly raises his “blackness index” (monitoring how black you are on a scale of 1 to 10) by donning baggy pants and a backwards cap. Will he join a violent resistance?

“Things My Mother Said” is a vignette about the protagonist and his supportive and hard-working and wise mother.

“The Era” takes place in a future in which devastating wars have led to a backlash against “dishonest” emotions and empathy and in which people pay to have their kids genetically “optimized,” although sometimes mistakes cause “shoelookers.” The narrator, Ben, who is ostracized because he wasn’t optimized, speaks a great line without any irony of his own (though we sure sense the author’s behind him): “I do bad at school because sometimes I think when I should be learning.”

“Lark Street” is a moving and funny nightmare in which the narrator is visited in the middle of the night by his girlfriend’s aborted twin fetuses. Adjei-Brenyah writes vivid descriptions of the twins’ webbed fingers and toes, transparent skin, tiny bodies coated with blood, and lively personalities. At one point the male twin tells the narrator, “I think I have more balls than you, and I’m still a trimester away from genitalia.”

“The Hospital Where” is an allegory of the struggle to become a successful writer, including the morality involved in mining people for story material. The narrator takes his father to the hospital, where he recounts his bargain made with the Twelve Tongued God to enable him to become a successful “winner” of a writer and decides to inform all the patients that they’re healthy and should go home.

“Zimmer Land” satirizes contemporary American culture via a theme park for adults (for now) where they can pay to (supposedly) explore problem solving and justice. Patrons pay to enter modules like Terrorist on the Train or, the most popular one, Cassidy Lane, which involves cul-de-sac home defense with extreme prejudice against a loitering black man.

“Friday Black” satirizes American consumerism by turning Black Friday hysteria into a zombie-mall scenario worthy of George Romero. The ace salesman narrator works in a store besieged by biting, clawing, moaning, hissing, and growling people ravenous for their desired purchases. After having been bitten by a customer, the narrator became able to speak Black Friday and so to understand that, for instance, a howl means, “I won’t be alone with this. They’ll like me now.”

“The Lion & the Spider” concerns the high school senior narrator and his relationship with his apparently ne’er-do-well father who told the guy and his sisters great stories about Anansi the African spider trickster god when they were little, but who has seemingly abandoned his family, forcing the narrator to start working in a Home Improvement center unloading delivery trucks.

“Light Spitter” is a fantasy exploring the psychology of outcasts. After the narrator is murdered in her university library by an alienated student, the rest of the story depicts the interactions of the odd couple, the victim on her way to becoming an angel and her killer on his way to becoming something else.

“How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing” features the salesman from “Friday Black,” here explaining (in a less exaggerated satire) his successful salesman techniques as he recounts trying to sell some coats to a white family. The story reveals why he’s only the 10th ranked salesman for the chain in the country, while his female co-worker is the 7th. It’s a funny story but goes on a bit too long.

“In Retail” is another satire set in the same mall as “Friday Black” and “How to Sell a Coat,” but this time it’s the narration of IceKing’s rival salesperson telling us how, “Even in nothing jobs like this, you need to think of ways you might really be helping somebody. Or you could end up a Lucy,” a worker who recently jumped to her death.

“Through the Flash” depicts a neighborhood caught in an apparently eternal time loop after the Flash, a big bomb, annihilated everyone, making them eternally recycle through time, constantly being killed and “reset” by the bomb. As they repeatedly go through the Flash, they gain abilities, like the 14-year-old girl narrator’s super strength and speed and her brother’s super brain capacity. When the story begins, she has decided to become a New Me who wants to make everyone to feel “supreme and infinite” after she has been “the Knife Queen” into torturing everyone in her community in ever more creative ways. The story is matter-of-fact in its depiction of the cruelty of children, but ends with an odd transcendence.

The two audiobook readers, Corey Allen (reading the male narrators) and Carra Patterson (reading the female ones) have appealing voices and read the stories with intelligence, empathy, and clarity.

Adjei-Brenyah’s stories are full of satire, humor, horror, and love. I’d like fewer first-person narrators and less present tense narration and more narrative variety. But it is an impressive first collection (though I don’t think I’ll be re-reading it soon).

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

One Sparkling Story in Over-the-top Collection

In general, I like over-the-top. And, on principle, I like ethical fiction, literature that tries to amplify the wrongs of a culture so we can see our way to end them.

Friday Black is both over-the-top and ethical. It’s just, well, perhaps a little too over-the-top.

Nana Kwame Adjei Brenyah has a method here, and it works well in small doses. Basically, he takes a metaphor and reifies it.

These are not small does, however. They are every story, and the volume in each is turned up close to 11.

If you’re a retail worker at a mall on Black Friday, and the customers seem out of control, imagine them as a zombie horde intent on buying whatever items the marketers have set out for them. If you’re a man lamenting his role in urging his partner to get an abortion, imagine him walking around with the residue of his two fetuses (who talk to him).

The great exception here, or more appropriately the story that does this best, is the widely acknowledged “Finkelstein Five.” That one is both the most ambitious – it imagines an America proud of itself for the Trayvon Martin shooting – and the most impressively accomplished. We get a young man protagonist who, angered by an analogous shooting of five unarmed African-American youths, gradually allows himself to be radicalized.

The anger seethes in this story, and it seems to give license to the stylistic hyperbole. (I suppose it’s the lack of such immediate anger that causes me to lose patience with some of the other stories.) This feels like a legitimate echo of Richard Wright, Black anger unleashed on the page. (I’m not saying this is at the level of Wright, but I do think it’s a worthy heir to that literary tradition.)

The story may have some flaws – it is, still, blunt, and it ends abruptly – but it has real power as well. Enough power, I’d say, that I’d consider teaching it in a college class some day.

The rest of the collection, though, while it has intriguing stylistic moments and at times channels a compelling anger in other directions, seems largely adolescent to me. Over-the-top has its place, but so does subtlety, and I could use a bit more of that here.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Necessary and Enthralling

Should be required reading. So full of depth and relevancy I wish I'd saved it for a bookclub - I’m dying to discuss even one (your choice!) of the stories from this collection. I am shaken and brain tingly in the most horrifyingly fascinating/satisfying ways possible. Carmen Maria Machado + George Saunders + Black Mirror vibes. Adjei -Brenyah is a finely honed mind that seems to effortlessly shape intricate speculative dimensions of our society while prompting one “too true” dark humor chuckle after another. This author is a master. I am inspired to live life more courageously because of this book.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Compelling! Loved it!

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is a brilliant, creative writer. Each story left me wanting more. I hope he makes a movie out of these stories. Can't wait for his next book!

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Unique take on current events/situations

Friday Black is a collection of stories with some unique takes on current events/situations. The author does a nice job painting the pictures of the stories to pull
you in.
It took me a while to get through the book. not because it wasn't good, but because they were nice
and short stories that also makes you wantta think about it for a little
So this is good to pick up, read a story then do something else..
In 2 minds about how the narrator did.. Sometimes, it was ok and sometimes his tone made me tune out..

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Woof, this is intense stuff.

If intense stories give you hives, stay away, but if you have the stomach to deal with modern life as experienced by a lot of fabulous characters, where the volume knob on the stories is turned to eleven, then you're likely to enjoy this. I had to read it in small installments, more or less one story a day, and they were profoundly good, and disturbing reflections of the modern world, maybe with a bit of a fun-house mirror, but maybe less than we'd like to acknowledge. If you are put off by violence, stay away.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

This is America

This was a dark almost satirical view of America and its broken pieces. My favorite is the Finklestein Five and Black Friday.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic read

I loved listening to this collection of stories. The writing is superb and the narration is on point. Completely Blacktastic!

5 people found this helpful