Blackass by A. Ignori Barrett c. 2015 (262 pages–Graywolf Press)

The main character, Furo, a black man, wakes up to discover he’s white. The story, set in Lagos (Nigeria), is a relevant reimagining of Kafka’s Metamorphosis that resonates with modern readers.

Sentences Worth Studying

  • “Furo Wariboko awoke this morning to find that dreams can lose their way and turn up on the wrong side of sleep. He was lying nude in bed, and when he raised his head a fraction he could see his alabaster belly, and his pale legs beyond, covered with fuzz that glinted bronze in the cold daylight pouring in through the open window” (3).
  • “I greeted her in Kalabari before offering to buy her ice cream. Calculation always trumps sincerity on social media” (89-90).
  • “No one asks to be born, to be black or white or any colour in between, and yet the identity a person is born into becomes the hardest to explain to the world. Furo’s dilemma was this: he was born black, and had lived in that skin for thirty-odd years, only to be born again on Monday morning as white, and while he was still toddling the curves of his new existence, he realised he had been mistaken in assuming his new identity had overthrown the old” (111).
  • “The conversation among the ladies turned to past boyfriends. In the zeal to one-up each other, their affected accents skidded and crashed, and from this wreck of grammar the mangled sense was rescued by a reversion to pidgin — the shortest distance between two thoughts. The straight-talking bluntness of the vernacular caused their mingled voices to beat the air like wings of released doves” (138).
  • “He had forgotten. His mother was dead, his father had abandoned him, and his sister was someone he had never met. He lived with a woman who fed and fucked him. He was white” (142).
  • “White skin, green eyes, red hair — black ass. Mere descriptions for what people saw, what others saw in him, and not who he was. He had to find out who he was” (156).
  • “Frank felt right—easy to pronounce, easy to remember, and the same first letter as Furo. Good rule to apply to Wariboko. He needed a surname that would keep his initials” (158).
  • “I was whoever I wanted me to be” (166).
  • “He was tempted to dip into all these messages addressed to someone he no longer was, but he realised the cruel folly of that action, as already he could feel his resolve crumbling under the weight of the subject line of his mother’s email, sent on 22 June, which read: ‘MY SON WHERE ARE YOU???’ Furo’s struggle with himself was rife with sighs, and in the end, by the simple trick of averting his eyes from the screaming caps, the hook-like question marks, the words fatted on desperation, he succeeded in withstanding the Pandora pull of his mailbox” (182).
  • “For a man accustomed to getting his way, a woman’s refusal is a flapping flag on the ramparts of a besieged fortress” (250).

About Kelsey Maki

writer and English professor
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