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HARRY SYLVESTER BIRD

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Extraordinary praise for Harry Sylvester Bird

 

 

LONGLISTED FOR THE 2023 ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE

 

 

NAMED A "BEST BOOK OF THE SUMMER," “BEST BOOK OF 2022,” “NOTABLE BOOK OF 2022,” “TOP BOOK OF 2022,” “NOTABLE AFRICAN BOOK OF 2022,” “BOOK OF THE DAY,” "MOST ANTICIPATED," OR "NEW AND NOTEWORTHY BOOK" BY  ESQUIRE COSMOPOLITANLitHubBOOK RIOTMs. MAGAZINETHE MILLIONS, NY PUBLIC LIBRARYLAMBDA LITERARYPOETS & WRITERSPOPSUGARBRITTLE PAPER, OPEN COUNTRY MAGAZINE, CHANNELS BOOK CLUB, ASTER(IX), AND MORE.

 

A Greenlight First Editions Book Club Selection

 

Radical Book Collective Book Club Selection

 

A GEEX Book Club Selection

 

“Disarmingly funny.” - The New York Times

 

“Incisive and innovative.... Harry Sylvester Bird is a bildungsroman for our time: a coming-of-race novel.... [and] raises questions about whiteness, identity and its limits, and the psychology, politics, and culture of race. [The novel] utilizes a potent mix of satire and horror to produce the creeping uneasiness that infuses so much of the American psyche right now. Okparanta is also exploring a (or perhaps the) tension at the center of American Literature.” - The Washington Independent Review of Books

 

“A tart questioning exploration of how deep racism runs.” - Kirkus

 

“Inventive.” - Publishers Weekly

 

“Ambitious and daring.” – Booklist

 

“In this oddly affecting novel..., Okparanta has laid bare some of our most vexing issues on race and identity, most notably those involving extremism and intolerance. Her unorthodox approach invites us — at our own risk — on an offbeat journey at once rattling and revealing.” - The Star Tribune

 

“Nigerian American writer Chinelo Okparanta hardly shies away from contentious matters. Her first novel, Under the Udala Trees, deftly tackled gay love in Nigeria against the tragic backdrop of the Biafran War. When the book came out in 2015, writing about homosexuality appeared to be taboo among Nigerian writers. Today, it is almost trending, explored by prose and poetry writers in books and literary journals. Likewise, Okparanta’s latest novel, Harry Sylvester Bird, is a forerunner of sorts.” - The Seattle Times

 

“Harry Sylvester Bird is a powerful story about the kind of racism that disguises as love and desire for black bodies, black life, and black pain.... The desire for racial metamorphosis is at the heart of the story. It opens a space where Okparanta examines the many forms that racism can take.... Parts of the novel are laugh-out-loud funny. The satire is deliciously biting. The pacing of the narration is perfect. The writing is spare and stunning.... [T]he (very) near-future speculative element in the story gives the novel its distinct feel.... [Harry Sylvester Bird] reprises the same bold elegance with which Okparanta engaged homophobia many years ago. With this new novel, she is still asking readers to confront the unexamined assumptions that blur their vision of the world.” - The Herald

 

Harry Sylvester Bird is, in fact, most about Black and African experiences of racism in America, subverting how white people and Westerners write about Africa…. Harry is, by design, an exaggerated character, full of the distasteful traits of well-meaning liberalism…. He is seemingly sympathetic, but his is ultimately a performed allyship, and he is oblivious to the racist connotations of his actions. – Open Country Magazine

 

"Shocking, humorous and cringe-inducing all at once, Okparanta shows her forte as a biting satirist when she takes aim at white guilt." - Africa Is A Country

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"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

“Her fiction reveals a mind that is at once compassionate as it is ambitious. But it is the intensity of her approach that sets her apart, and the reason, I think, her work will endure and be read for years to come.” Chigozie Obioma, author of The Fishermen and An Orchestra of Minorities

“With Harry Sylvester Bird, [Okparanta] continues to provoke, but in a radically creative way that carves out new territory and shows her range…. I can’t think of a fitting way to write about American racism in this moment than through satire. And this is satire that is deeply unsettling, scathing, but I wouldn’t expect any less of a novel in which the racist, often mortifying white protagonist believes he is, yes, black, an ally, and far removed from his racist parents from whom he desperately wants to distance himself. Hence the comedy….When Yvonne Vera wrote: ‘A woman writer must have an imagination that is plain stubborn, that can invent new gods and banish ineffectual ones,’ it is easy to think that Chinelo is the kind of writer she had in mind. What an incisive, rigorous intellect, what a potent, powerful voice, what a plain stubborn imagination.”  –NoViolet Bulawayo, author of We Need New Names and Glory

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