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Paul Beatty: First American author to win Man Booker Prize

Paul Beatty's book 'Sellout' tells the story of an African-American who attempts to bring back segregation and slavery. The novel had previously won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

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Paul Beatty speaks on stage at the 2016 Man Booker Prize at The Guildhall on Oct. 25, 2016 in London, England.

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Author Paul Beatty has won the Man Booker Award for his work “The Sellout,” becoming the first American author to win the prestigious British literary award after the prize recently became open to US authors.

Mr. Beatty’s novel “Sellout” tells the story of an African-American Los Angeles resident who attempts to bring segregation back to a high school nearby and bring back slavery as well. He is then brought up before the US Supreme Court. 

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Beatty is also the author of works such as “Slumberland” and “The White Boy Shuffle.” His work “Sellout” also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 2015. 

Other books that were nominated for the Man Booker Prize this year were “His Bloody Project” by Graeme Macrae Burnet, “Do Not Say We Have Nothing” by Madeleine Thien, and “Hot Milk” by Deborah Levy. 

Beatty is the first American author to win the Man Booker Prize after it was announced in 2013 that any book that was published in English would be eligible. 

Prior to that, only authors from Britain, Ireland, or countries that are in the Commonwealth of Nations could be nominated for the prize. The winner receives £50,000 (about $61,000) and the publicity tends to boost sales worldwide. 

Chris White, who is the fiction buyer for British bookstore chain Waterstones, told the BBC that he felt the win by “Sellout” was very deserving.

“The Booker judges have awarded the most significant of literary prizes to what feels like the most significant novel to have emerged in these strange and difficult times,” Mr. White said. 

And Claire Armitstead of the Guardian found the win by “Sellout” intriguing. 

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“Paul Beatty is an exhilarating addition to the Booker hall of heroes,” Ms. Armitstead wrote. “…Beatty has achieved the rare feat of writing a novel that is recklessly, scabrously funny, politically of-the-moment and hugely erudite in its frame of reference and its playful invocation of both literary and popular culture.”


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