Book Review: Friday Black – Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Friday Black book photo

Rating: 2 out of 3.

12 short stories, 12 shrewd views into disturbing modern society. Racism, stereotypes and marginalisation. Rabid consumerism. Fictional government and education systems with eerie echoes of the real world. Pay attention to what Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black has to say.

The power of Friday Black lies in describing the wrongness of such things. But also in making the reader look through the eyes of those labelled as deviants – monsters. A good book to read for some much-needed wake up calls.

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Favourite Short Stories

‘Zimmer Land’

One of the most striking pieces of the lot. The narrator, Isaiah or Zay, is a primary player, an actor, in simulations set up by a US company, Zimmer Land. These modules allow people to experience extreme situations in a controlled environment.

The stereotype-fuelled scenarios are disturbing enough. They encourage impulsive and violent resolutions rather that the safe self-evaluation Zimmer Land proclaims. It’s the narrator’s casual involvement, however, that drives the short story’s darkness home. Then the capitalist escalation of Zimmer Land comes to twist the plot further.

This story becomes a cynical rock in the stomach. It’s an ominous futuristic narrative that plays with interweaving concepts: reality and fiction, education and entertainment, the right to protect and the license to attack.

‘The Finkelstein 5’

This is Friday Black’s best and most moving short story. A heinous hate crime sends ripples through the country. The justice system’s blatant disregard of right and wrong in favour of a distorted perception of the perpetrator’s right to protect triggers a spree of violence. The anger and sympathy the situation inspires makes this a truly moving piece of literature.

Adjei-Brenyah gives the reader two views: the trial itself and the societal effect of its verdict as seen and experienced by the narrative’s protagonist, Emmanuel. From living with everyday discrimination and a carefully maintained Blackness scale to seeing the murder of children being excused and disguised as a case of self-defense, this short story feels like a slowly bubbling pot of racism that finally boils over.  

Conclusion

Both stories and others in the collection, veering between fiction and science fiction, reveal uncomfortable truths about society and our own beliefs, delusions and frustrations. The force and spirit behind this book’s concepts had echoes of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. Adjei-Brenyah is definitely an author to watch.

Grab your copy: Waterstones, Amazon, AbeBooks

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Author: Electra Nanou

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