book review: Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah



FRIDAY BLACK by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Mariner Books, 2018


Like most short story collections, Friday Black has its highs and its lows, and on the whole I’d say it lands somewhere in the middle. But that’s not to dismiss Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s skill at dark, grotesque speculative fiction, which is on full display in a number of these stories, from the harrowing opener The Finkelstein 5 (a man brutally murders 5 black children with a chainsaw and claims self-defense) to the devastating Zimmer Land (a Westworld-style themepark where participants play out fantasies in which they defend their families by murdering intruders).

However, from an opening that promised thematic cohesion (at least where the first three stories were concerned – all playing with the tension between inward identity and outward emotion), it started to flounder a bit. The Hospital Where introduces huge ideas and never really follows through. Three stories make the exact same point about consumerism, begging the question of why they were all necessary to include. The final story, Through the Flash, drags on and on while getting less interesting the further it goes.

My average rating for these 12 stories is 3.25, so 3 stars it is, but I do want to stress that I did enjoy this collection. I think Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is one of the most exciting, daring new voices I’ve read in fiction all year. This is a searing, unapologetic collection about violence and black identity and capitalism, and how inextricable those themes are. I’d ultimately recommend giving this collection a shot if it interests you, but if you’re just interested in reading one story from it, make it The Finkelstein 5.

You can pick up a copy of Friday Black here on Book Depository.

18 thoughts on “book review: Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

    • I’d love to hear your thoughts, Cathy! It’s definitely worth checking out, it’s not even 200 pages. Super quick read with its highs and its lows.


    • I found the Friday Black story super enjoyable, if maybe a bit on the nose, and then I found the other retail stories rather redundant. He’s a great writer though, I’ll gladly read whatever he comes out with next.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have been on the fence about this ever since it was released. It sounds like something I might adore (I do like my short stories on the twisted, speculative side) but it might also be too violent for me. This isn’t helping my TBR!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really want to hear your take on this! I also think it could go either way for you, but some of the stories were so up your alley. But, it is definitely violent. And there’s a story about a man having conversations with his girlfriend’s aborted fetuses that might be a bit too much.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t always hate violence in books and I have a higher tolerance to awfulness in short stories than I have otherwise. But, oh wow, that story might really be too much for me. I could always skip it though.


  2. This actually sounds so intriguing! I love twisted stuff. I’m always so hesitant to read short story collections because I find a lot of them tend to be vague or open-ended and end up being frustrating. Did you find that the stories had some closure?

    Liked by 1 person

    • HMMMM good q. On the whole I think these stories were definitely stronger in concept than execution, so I could see you being irritated by the openendedness of a couple. But a few did have closure, or at least the kind of ending that I think you’d appreciate? So it’s hard to say, but I imagine you’d probably land somewhere in the middle with this collection. BUT it’s fewer than 200 pages so definitely worth a shot if it piques your interest.

      Liked by 1 person

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