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'Friday Black' review: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's deput collection is astonishing

The dozen stories tackle racism, violence and hyper-consumerism to shocking effect.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's new short story collection, "Friday

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's new short story collection, "Friday Black," is out this week. Photo Credit: Limitless Imprint Entertainment / Mariner

With his exceptional debut story collection, "Friday Black," Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has unleashed a ferociously indignant howl against America's worst impulses.

These 12 stories caricature our society's racism, hyper-consumerism, ignorance, glorification of violence and that ever-increasing need to gratify every impulse.

The astonishing intensity of Adjei-Brenyah's scenarios are so at odds with the measured, almost workmanlike prose used to convey them that the extreme suddenly seems uncomfortably less outlandish.

Take the premise of "The Finkelstein 5," which opens this volume: A white man feels threatened by five black children outside a library and kills them all in the name of protecting his family. A jury finds him not guilty in just 28 minutes.

The parallels to recent events, particularly the 2012 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who was also acquitted, are unmistakable.

But in Adjei-Brenyah's story, the white man cuts off the black children's heads with a chainsaw, which is just the first of many profoundly disturbing yet thought-provoking twists.

Time and again, Adjei-Brenyah's audacious magnifying glass reveals startling truths: a "Westworld"-like theme park in "Zimmer Land" (note, again, the familiar name) where patrons pay to exact "justice" on those who "threaten" them; the Orwellian love story of "The Era," where some children need injections of "Good"; the feral atmosphere at Prominent Mall on Black Friday in the title story; the nuclear-apocalypse Groundhog Day in "Through the Flash."

There is subtlety here, too, which adds to the emotional weight of these stories, particularly in "The Lion & The Spider," a tender look at a son's relationship with his incredibly imperfect father.

But without a doubt, it is the perversion of the familiar that shocks the most, because while these stories are exaggerated, they are frighteningly recognizable.

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