Between films like Sorry to Bother You and Get Out, and even music videos like Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” I had enlightening conversations about how these works represented the Black experience. All had seemingly ordinary narratives about ordinary people carrying about their ordinary lives (with the exception of a shirtless, gun-wielding, dancing Gambino) but featured jarring turns into the absurd and surreal. The startling and allegorical departure from reality as we understand it in Get Out helped reframe thoughts on Black bodies and acted as a catalyst for complex conversations about race, identity, and class. We’ve since colloquialized the “Sunken Place” where “unwoke” people of color reside—ignorant to racism and the burdens many marginalized groups are forced to bare. Jordan Peele’s irreverent film is just one example of a burgeoning sect of Black storytelling that Slate magazine refers to as the “New Black Surrealism,” stating “the best way to depict Black people’s reality is to depart from it.” Fascinated by this subgenre of Black film, music, and television, I set out to find literature in the same vein. Here’s a list of books dazzling with Black surrealism.
In A. Igoni Barrett’s debut novel, a young Nigerian man wakes up the morning of a job interview transformed into a white man. He must quickly learn to navigate a world made unfamiliar and deal with those riding the coattails of his newfound privilege. BLACKASS is a fierce comic satire that touches on everything from race to social media, all while questioning how we are valued by society simply by virtue of the way we look.