Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 113: Erasure by Percival Everett

by | Aug 19, 2022 | 2022 Book Reviews, Book Reviews, Marion's Favorite Books, Marion's Favorites, Marion's Reading Life Blog, Percival Everett, Wisdom From Kammbia Column | 0 comments

Percival Everett is a writer I have wanted to read for some time.  I have come across online articles and social media posts over the past year about his work. Well, I finally did a Goodreads search on his books and chose Erasure for my first Percival Everett fictional experience.

I made a good choice. 

Erasure tells the story of the novelist, Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (love the character name). His career has flat-lined, and many publishers rejected his latest novel.  Even though Ellison has written critically acclaimed novels in the past, his books are inaccessible and not urban enough for mainstream success.  Monk is outraged when he finds out about a novel titled We’s Lives in Da Ghetto by Juanita Mae Jenkins that becomes a colossal success and celebrated for its authenticity of African American urban life.

Monk writes his own version of urban fiction in protest to the success of the Jenkins novel.  He publishes the novel under a pseudonym Stagg R. Leigh and originally titled the novel My Pafology. However, the major publishers go crazy about the novel and offered a high six-figure advance.  The novel is re-titled The F-Word and becomes a sensation.

Meanwhile, the author returns to his hometown of Washington DC where his mother is ill and Monk learns about his family in ways he could have never imagined. On the surface, this novel could be seen as a diatribe against popular fiction from a literary snob.  However, the issues with Monk’s family add a layer of depth and sensitivity that gives the novel a much-needed balance. Monk raises a legitimate critique when it comes to African American fiction myopically seen as life in the hood being the true authentic experience for black people in our country.  But, I believe he misses the point that most people read for the story.  Story is universal and reading in the social media age brings that home more than ever.

“A story is designed, from beginning to end, to answer a single overarching question. As readers, we instinctively know this, so we expect every word, every line, every character, every image, every action to move us closer to the answer.”

That is the best definition I have ever read about a story and it comes from Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story.  Despite that oversight by Monk, I will end this review by writing that Erasure is my favorite read of 2022.  Everett provides satire,  cultural critique, and tenderness in a novel that kept me invested as a reader.  Also, he lays out one of the most damaging effects of the American brand of racism.  Percival Everett gets a bravo and a standing ovation from this reader.  I have been listening to Deniece Williams’ song, Free, from her 1976 This Is Niecy album since reading Shine Bright by Danyel SmithI want to be free and I just got to be free are some of the lyrics of this hit song. I would add that is the anthem for this story and for many people that look like me.


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