Fourteen-year-old Harry — gentle, serious and a bit eccentric — goes on a life-changing trip to Tanzania with his family. After returning home to life as usual in rural Edward, Pennsylvania, Harry grows resentful of his white conservative parents and neighbors for their racist, xenophobic, and unsophisticated ways. Everywhere Harry looks, it seems he sees representations of what’s wrong with the country. When Harry finally leaves for college a few years later, he heads straight to New York City, to feel free. There, he meets and falls in love with Maryam, a young Nigerian woman. As their relationship evolves, Harry tries to embrace a new, Black identity in solidarity, with unexpected and sometimes outrageous consequences. In the process, Harry is forced to confront his whiteness in ways he never expected.


Funny, brilliant, provocative, and inspired by current conversations about identity and race, Harry Sylvester Bird is sure to cause the right kind of stir.



"Irreverent and compassionate at once, Okparanta interrogates our current moment. In her hands, humor is a weapon, a tool, and a salve. You will laugh until you cry, or maybe you will cry until you laugh." -- Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage and Silver Sparrow


"In her long-anticipated sophomore novel Harry Sylvester Bird, Chinelo Okparanta deftly slips into a new skin to deliver a scathing and incisive look at white America. A must-read for everyone committed to the work of anti-racism, Harry Sylvester Bird is both a delightfully unsettling and deeply necessary political text; a timely triumph of satire by one of our finest literary minds." -- Akwaeke Emezi, author of The Death of Vivek Oji


"Arresting, bold, and exactly the kind of book we need right now. Harry Sylvester Bird is haunting in the best way possible. It is truly thrilling to read such an unapologetic point of view from such a masterful storyteller." -- Angie Cruz, author of Dominicana


"Chinelo Okparanta is one of our finest writers, and Harry Sylvester Bird is her finest book yet: funny, moving, and (in the best sense of the word) incendiary." -- David Leavitt, author of Shelter in Place


"Chinelo Okparanta has written a biting, deftly written satire that throws into sharp relief contemporary politics around identity, race, and nationalism. Harry Sylvester Bird is an enigmatic narrator whose fumbling efforts at self-actualization and romance remind us of the universal struggle to know oneself and to be more than the prejudices we've inherited." -- Naomi Jackson, author of The Star Side of Bird Hill


"Chinelo Okparanta's new book has its finger firmly on the American zeitgeist. It is provocative in its look at race today, it is thoughtful, but most of all it is beautifully written." -- Helon Habila, author of Travelers and Oil on Water

Daring, original, and unflinching, this novel will make you think....