Recommended Reading: Erasure by Percival Everett

I’ve been thinking A LOT about Erasure by Percival Everett lately. Everything is so complicated, and so much is lost when people don’t educate themselves about the big picture. It’s great that some publishers and editors are actively seeking diverse voices. It’s awful when they start telling writers that they need to be MORE X, that their story lines, characters, etc aren’t X enough. No, no, no.

I have no desire to share the experiences of others without their permission, but I will say here that in addition to the public stories some writers have shared about their experiences with having editors/publishers demand their work be something else, something more “ethnic,” something more in keeping with what white readers expect, I personally know so many writers of color who have shared experiences with me that make me cringe. Well, and then I get the rage eye.

Erasure follows Thelonious Ellison, a black fiction writer. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll share this excerpt from page 2:

From a Reviewer:

The novel is finely crafted, with fully developed characters, rich language and subtle play with plot, but one is lost to understand what this reworking of Aeschylus’ The Persians has to do with the African American experience.

Not only is the novel a critique of what writers of color are and aren’t allowed to write, how, and why, but it’s also a critique of what the literary community wants to read about “others.” After reading Erasure well over a decade ago, I started noticing more and more what kinds of stories the literary community typically publishes by writers of color, LGBT+ writers, and working class writers, when they publish them at all. It enrages me and breaks my heart.

Erasure is a page-turner. Percival Everett is a genius. (I also highly recommend Glyph and teach some of the stories from Damned If I Do.) You’ll enjoy reading this book and probably be slightly more aware of the nature of reality once you’re done. I know I was.

 

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