Harry Sylvester Bird

by Okparanta, Chinelo,

Format: Print Book 2022
Availability: Available at 6 Libraries 6 of 9 copies
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Summary

"Disarmingly funny." - The New York Times

From the award-winning author of Under the Udala Trees and Happiness, Like Water comes a brilliant, provocative, up-to-the-minute satirical novel about a young white man's education and miseducation in contemporary America.

Harry Sylvester Bird grows up in Edward, Pennsylvania, with his parents, Wayne and Chevy, whom he greatly dislikes. They're racist, xenophobic, financially incompetent, and they have quite a few secrets of their own. To Harry, they represent everything wrong with this country. And his small town isn't any better. He witnesses racial profiling, graffitied swastikas, and White Power signs on his walk home from school. He can't wait until he's old enough to leave. When he finally is, he moves straight to New York City, where he feels he can finally live out his true inner self.

In the city, he meets and falls in love with Maryam, a young Nigerian woman. But when Maryam begins to pull away, Harry is forced to confront his identity as he never has before--if he can.

Brilliant, funny, original, and unflinching, Harry Sylvester Bird is a satire that speaks to all the most pressing tensions and anxieties of our time--and of the history that has shaped us and might continue to do so.

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Harry Sylvester Bird bears the burden of his whiteness heavily, especially at a time in American life when racism is causing serious damage. He is first moved to action as a teen in Pennsylvania, trying to fix the extensive environmental damage in Centralia, a near ghost town with fire burning beneath the ground. Eventually, Harry moves to New York, where he falls in love with Maryam, a captivating Nigerian woman. In her second novel, following Under the Udala Trees (2015), Okparanta takes on heavy subjects, including racism, environmental destruction, xenophobia, extremist politics, and the COVID-19 pandemic in an uneven attempt at satire. Harry's parents, Chevy and Wayne, for example, come across as extreme caricatures, and significant aspects of Harry's growth arc are missing. Okparanta hints at Harry's sexuality in the first part of the book, which takes place during a vacation in Tanzania with his parents, but that is left unexplored as the story moves on to the young man's body dysmorphia. This disjointed but ambitious and daring novel has its appeals, and some readers will appreciate the humor."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "The inventive if messy latest from Okparanta (Under the Udala Trees) chronicles the coming-of-age of a young white man who is convinced he is Black. In 2016, 14-year-old Harry Sylvester Bird develops an enduring fascination with Blackness while on a safari in Tanzania. (Regarding a Black tour guide's arm hairs: "I noted them and wished I could be them.") Several years later and back home in Edward, Pa., Harry's racist parents slide toward financial catastrophe as Harry graduates high school and Covid-19 takes hold, spurring vaccination checkpoints and a national "bubble registry." Eager to distance himself from his family, Harry moves to New York and starts to identify as Black, going by "G-Dawg" and joining a "Transracial-Anon" support group. After ambivalently accepting a scholarship from the Purists (an extremist white populist political party), Harry enrolls in college and falls in love with Maryam, a fellow student from Nigeria. Despite some disastrous early dates, the couple stays together for years until a study-abroad trip to Ghana compels Harry to grapple with his identity and puts his relationship with Maryam to the test. There are weighty ideas here, but Harry's lack of self-awareness will test readers' patience, and the satire sometimes gets lost in the scattered plot. This doesn't quite stick the landing. (July)"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Racism -- Fiction.
Families -- Fiction.
Man-woman relationships -- Fiction.
Nigerians -- Fiction.
Identity (Psychology) -- Fiction.
Manhattan (New York, N.Y.) -- Fiction.
Psychological fiction.
Romance fiction.
Publisher Boston :Mariner Books,2022
Edition First edition.
Language English
Description 310 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN 9780358617273
0358617278
Other Classic View