The short stories in Friday Black, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, who was just named one of the five-under-35 authors to watch by the National Book Foundation, are wholly original in their depiction of what it feels like to be young and black in America.
In the title story, “Friday Black,” Ice King, working in a box store, is determined to win the prized coat by selling the most of a fleece vest on Black Friday to customers stomping on each other to get to the bargains. In contrast, an affluent family casually shopping for a ski trip deliberates over what things cost. Ice King gently coaxes the parents into a purchase. The veneer of fiscal responsibility is shattered as decisions of what is “needed” are exposed.
The story, “The Finkelstein 5,” is a takedown of our justice system. When the story opens, Emmanuel is on the phone scheduling a job interview. He’s scaled his Blackness factor down to 1.5 on a scale of 10. When he is in public the lowest hecan go is 4.0. Then, if it goes above 4, the measure is because of something external; the xenophobic measure of blackness as a threat. The similarities to the murder of Trayvon Martin cannot be overlooked.
The son of Ghanaian immigrants, Adjei-Brenyah skews reality just enough to be dystopian, implements satire to make us laugh as we swallow brutality and racism, and illustrates how unjust the world is when people are given the right to play god.