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In this episode, Vinita sits down with two experts to break down the many layers — and Black stereotypes — in the much anticipated new film, American Fiction.

The lead character of the new movie American Fiction is Monk. He’s a Black man but never feels ‘Black’ enough: he graduated from Harvard, his siblings are doctors, he doesn’t play basketball and he writes literary novels.

Directed and written by former journalist Cord Jefferson, American Fiction won this year’s People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it has its much anticipated North American release in theatres this month. It’s been called an “incisive literary satire” by the Guardian.

Cover of ‘Erasure’
(Graywolf press)

The film, starring Jeffrey Wright, is an adaption of the 2001 novel Erasure by Percival Everett. The book and the film are centred on Monk, a novelist who’s fed up with a white-led publishing industry that profits from Black entertainment and tired tropes. As a Black man who thinks about race but also rages against having to talk about it, Monk gets so frustrated that he decides to poke fun of those who uncritically consume what they are sold as “Black culture.”

He uses a pen name to write an outlandish “Black” book of his own. It’s about “thug life” and is called “My Pafology.” But plot twist: his attempt at satire is lost on his audience and the book ends up becoming wildly successful. Suddenly, Monk is among those profiting off the stereotypes he so despises. The rest of the story explores “the unfairness of asking individual artists to represent the entire Black experience.”

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In this episode of Don’t Call Me Resilient, Prof. Vershawn Ashanti Young of University of Waterloo and Prof. Anthony Stewart of Bucknell University join forces to break down the many layers of Monk’s story and why Black stereotypes remain so persistent in pop culture.

Issa Rae plays Sintara Golden. She gets interviewed on a talk show because her novel is doing so well.
(Orion)

Read more in The Conversation




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Cultural appropriation and the whiteness of book publishing





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‘BlacKkKlansman’ — a deadly serious comedy





Read more:
Harriet Tubman film does not deserve the Twitter hate





Read more:
‘American Fiction’ asks who gets to decide Blackness


Resources

The NAACP had issues with the Black representations of Amos (Alvin Childress) and Andy (Spencer Williams) pictured here in a 1951 episode of Andy in Amos ’n’ Andy (CBS/Wikipedia).

Approximate Gestures: Infinite Spaces in the Fiction of Percival Everett by Anthony Stewart

First Look: American Fiction Challenges Hollywood’s “Poverty of Imagination” About Black People (Vanity Fair)

How Amos ’n’ Andy paved the way for Black Stars on TV” (Slate)

Native Son by Richard Wright

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You can listen to or follow Don’t Call Me Resilient on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube or wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts.

We’d love to hear from you, including any ideas for future episodes. Join The Conversation on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok and use #DontCallMeResilient.

Trailer for ‘American Fiction’ (Orion)



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Felecia Phillips Ollie DD (h.c.) is the inspiring leader and founder of The Equality Network LLC (TEN). With a background in coaching, travel, and a career in news, Felecia brings a unique perspective to promoting diversity and inclusion. Holding a Bachelor's Degree in English/Communications, she is passionate about creating a more inclusive future. From graduating from Mississippi Valley State University to leading initiatives like the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Equal Employment Opportunity Program, Felecia is dedicated to making a positive impact. Join her journey on our blog as she shares insights and leads the charge for equity through The Equality Network.

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