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Angry Black White Boy: A Novel Paperback – March 8, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Adam Mansbach's cultishly popular novel about an "Angry Black White Boy" who ignites a nationwide race furor seemed an unlikely property for stage translation. But adaptor (as well as title-role player) Dan Wolf and collaborators have pulled it off. This very funny, frequently electric take on an outrageous story is billed as a "new play with live music" -- though it's no musical. Rather, it's hip-hop theater that seems destined for extended life. The book's careening parable feels like a more multiculturally aware equivalent to the literary provocations of older cult author Chuck Palahniuk, with its wild plot hooks, credibly eccentric characters and trenchant apocalyptic comedy.... ingenious street-dance-slash-mime stylized movement [and] occasional recorded snippets mesh with the cast's rapping, human beatboxing, singing and keyboarding -- all cleverly driving the narrative forward rather than overpowering it. Visual design contributions are sharp but minimal, as the dynamic four performers' multiple-role-playing, multidisciplinary talents supply all spectacle needed."
Variety

"Intersection for the Arts' new play "Angry Black White Boy," based on local author Adam Mansbach's celebrated 2005 novel, blasts through what could have been a tired debate on racial identity politics. With incredible energy and seamless staging, the show has the effect of being lost in a good book, not sitting in a theater. Adapted by and starring Dan Wolf as Macon Detornay, the angry white boy in question, the show feature members of the hip-hop collective Felonious - Myers Clark, Keith Pinto (doubling as choreographer) and Tommy Shepherd (also the composer) in alternating roles. The spare set proves to be big enough for elements of dance to intertwine with dialogue. Amazingly, the sound is controlled by the performers on stage, either through live beat-box effects or recordings. The play ends amid the confusion of who, exactly, should be apologizing to whom and for what. The issues are anything but black or white".
San Francisco Chronicle

"For all of its form crunching and boundary pushing, "Angry Black White Boy" rises or falls on the strength of its storytelling. Dan Wolf’s stage adaptation of Adam Mansbach's novel tells a fierce, funny, fascinating story that cuts to the core of what we talk about when we talk about race in this country. There’s satire and sincerity in ample supply, and this dynamic Campo Santo/Intersection for the Arts production, directed with sharp focus and experimental glee by Sean San Jose, is compelling as it is entertaining... fluid sound and movement that make the story feel like dance, poetry and music without ever detracting from the forward motion of the plot and the characters’ trajectory. The storytelling along the way crackles with energy that comes from the fusion of mostly live music – a blend of hip-hop, rap, beatbox, doo-wop, gorgeous harmonies -- and incisive movement. The excellent quartet of actors fuses sound, movement and storytelling to create a uniquely theatrical experience."
San Francisco Examiner

"
Vigorous and inviting... very entertaining. Director Sean San Jose and cast propel the action through a fluid, combustible mixture of music and movement, with sharp choreography. The cohesive, versatile ensemble and Wolf's sympathetic approach translates into an engaging theatrical hybrid, whose punctuations and rhythms carry their own share of emotional content and cultural meaning."
San Francisco Bay Guardian

"Adapted from Adam Mansbach’s hip-lit novel of the same title, the stage version doesn’t dilute the potent conversation about race, racism, and identity. In fact, I’d venture to say witnessing the Mansbach’s deeply complicated subject matter as live dialog is possibly more powerful. Featuring members of the hip-hop collective Felonious (Myers Clark, Keith Pinto and Tommy Shepherd), it’s also very lyrical in its execution, featuring and ballet-influenced choreography and stage blocking from Keith Pinto. This is a thoughtfully complicated production. The issues are muddy, the resolutions are unclear, and the show on the whole has a great sense of humor.Wolf’s play is an amazing and consistently challenging journey through one’s psyche... an extremely nuanced play."
SFist

Angry Black White Boy is bananas! Actually, it’s a banana split with razor blades in it. Adam Mansbach is the white Richard Wright, and Angry Black White Boy is our generation’s Native Son.”
—William Upski Wimsatt, author of No More Prisons

“Startling, subversive, and raucous, Angry Black White Boy is a novel about how we became who we are, and why that’s not good enough.”
—Daniel Alarcón, author of War by Candlelight

“With this brutal, hilarious, and tragic novel, Adam Mansbach proves once again he is one of the most ambitious, insightful, and daring writers of our generation.”
—Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation

Angry Black White Boy is full of hilariously twisted racial politics. Adam Mansbach is like a wigger Ishmael Reed running wild through the world of hip hop.”
—Touré, author of Soul City

“An insanely smart novel that pulls no punches . . . wild, comic, and dark.”
—Percival Everett, author of Erasure

From the Inside Flap

From the acclaimed author of "Shackling Water comes the first great race novel of the twenty-first century, an incendiary and ruthlessly funny satire about violence, pop culture, and American identity.
Macon Detornay is a suburban white boy possessed and politicized by black culture, and filled with rage toward white America. After moving to New York City for college, Macon begins robbing white passengers in his taxicab, setting off a manhunt for the black man presumed to be committing the crimes. When his true identity is revealed, Macon finds himself to be a celebrity and makes use of the spotlight to hold forth on the evils and invisibility of whiteness. Soon he launches the Race Traitor Project, a stress-addled collective that attracts guilty liberals, wannabe gangstas, and bandwagon riders from all over the country to participate in a Day of Apology--a day set aside for white people to make amends for four hundred years of oppression. The Day of Apology pushes New York City over the edge into an epic riot, forcing Macon to confront the depth of his own commitment to the struggle.
Peopled with all manner of race pimps and players, "Angry Black White Boy is a stunning breakout book from a critically acclaimed young writer and should be required reading for anyone who wants to get under the skin of the complexities of identity in America.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; First Edition edition (March 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400054877
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400054879
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #292,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Rare is the novel that tackles the serious business of black-white relationships and yet is a damn good read. "Angry Black White Boy'' by Adam Mansbach is such a book. The prose is lyrical, the topic is timely, the humor is abundant, and the plot is riveting. Macon Detornay is a young white man with a love of hip-hop, and something a lot stronger than sympathy for the black cause. He quickly goes from robbing smug and bigoted white men to becoming a media superstar who calls upon whites to begin righting wrongs during a National Day of Apology. What happens on that day? Probably not what you're expecting ... not entirely anyway. This is a highly cinematic story -- I can see a movie in its future -- that thankfully lacks preachiness or one-sidedness: Mansbach is an equal-opportunity mocker. You may not like everything this book has to say, but you won't regret reading it.
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Decades after the Sugar Hill gang burst onto the scene with "Rapper's Delight," the proliferation of hip-hop moves forward at a steady pace. ANGRY BLACK WHITE BOY is a chronicle of the effects hip-hop has had on America, racial politics, suburban youth, and Macon Detornay as he enters his freshman year at Columbia University.

Macon is a man on a mission to be known as "the downest white boy." For years, he has paid his dues to Black culture and Black folks, earning respect in most circles with his lay-it-on-the-line speeches, innovative poetry, and his hatred for "the man." Nevertheless, Macon isn't content to just be down. He smells a revolution brewing, and he is at its forefront - accidentally on purpose.

Mansbach's story enraptured me with its humor, lilt, and permutation of racial biases, issues, and scope. By creating a character who was totally different from, and almost antithetic to, any other I had ever read about, Mansbach won me over and held me captive in a story I had yet to hear. The writing was unpredictable and almost improvisational, and it fit the plot of this story without overshadowing the central themes and characters. ANGRY BLACK WHITE BOY gleams with brilliance, and I will never forget it. (RAW Rating: 4.5)

Reviewed by CandaceK

of The RAWSISTAZ™ Reviewers
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I just finished reading Angry Black White Boy. It seemed like a good premise, but could have been a lot better. The writing style is so poor, with such tenuous logic, that any points that the author makes about racism are weakened. The characters are two-dimensional and don't behave like real people. They just serve to move the plot from point A to point B. So many of the characters are thin stereotypes that the overall message is diluted. The main character, named Macon, is the "downest" white guy ever. He seems to be an embarrassing alter-ego for the author (who has some hip-hop album reviews on his web site if you want a sample his writing style). Macon is not exactly a hero, but something of an Eminem among black political leaders. Macon's political message is somewhat ambivalent, and it's easy to lose interest in his character halfway through. The ending is ridiculous and ruins the story. Mansbach's overall writing style can be downright embarrassing. He's overly earnest in his attempt at hipness. He often uses bad poetry slam writing full of paens to hip-hop, with cringe-inducing use of words like "pimpstrut" as a verb. The book also includes fictional segments from the memoir of an early negro baseball player, but they're written in a revisionist style that's way out of touch with the writing of that time. It's another fatal error that prevents the book from ringing true. I wanted to like this book, and found some of the observations on racial identity to be very acute, but overall it just doesn't work - not even as a criticism of white people trying to adopt black culture. A writer like Gore Vidal, for example, can write about controversial subjects like this with absurdity and insight, but Adam Mansbach just doesn't succeed. For a better book on racism, skip Angry Black White Boy and just read Richard Wright's book Black Boy instead (or any other classic works on racism from authors who actually know what they're talking about, unlike Mr. Mansbach).
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What a disappointment. I truly enjoyed the first two thirds of this book, but the story dropped off so steeply at the end, that the whole book was spoiled in retrospect.

It was a great concept, and Mansbach deserves praise for creating believable and three-dimensional characters. But as soon as the story moves beyond New York City, grotesque stereotypes emerge.

Macon Detourney was a great character. His imagination is wild, and he tends to interpret the goings-on around him through the lens of TV and popular culture. Unfortunately, the same can be said of Mansbach's relationship to the America outside of New York City. He has seen imagery on TV, but doesn't have the same sense for real and imaginary.

The hip hop writing is great.
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Mansbach's writing style here repeatedly took my breath away. He writes like firecrackers. Well, okay, bad comparison, since I can't write like him. His central character also writes and thinks in an eye-popping hip hop style, and he works great as a protagonist for me. This book gets compared to Native Son a lot, but I think the satire of Invisible Man is the better comparison. Anyone who thinks anything in this book isn't "realistic" is either unhip to how satire works or intent on ignoring the book's message. And what a great message--that whites need to wake up, especially white liberals.

The novel's staging of a national Day of Apology by whites seems at first like something this very white-aware author would approve of, but then he goes on to show why such a day wouldn't actually work: because most whites are so clueless about what their race has to apologize for. There still has to be a whole ton of education going on before such an apology is even worth voicing, let alone accepting. The Times ran a condescending review when this novel came out, accusing the author of using lazy, cliched slang. What a bad reader! I think The Times just didn't want to receive and repeat the author's message, or else just couldn't hear it.

Overall, great novel! Though I have to agree with reviewers below that the author seemed a little bewildered about how to end it.
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