Monday, February 26, 2024

“American Fiction” – The White Lies We Tell Ourselves About Black Storytelling

If you’re looking for a smart, snappy film that challenges norms on how people talk about race, then you’re in the right place. American Fiction, starring Jeffrey Wright as a struggling Black novelist named Monk, breaks down society’s obsession with flattening people to grotesque racial stereotypes.

The result? An often-dry, frequently hilarious and never-preachy film that leaves the viewer questioning how the Black experience is portrayed in storytelling and art.

The film opens with Monk in sort of a funk. His books aren’t selling because they aren’t “black enough.” Meanwhile, another Black author, the highly-educated, sushi-eating, Farm Rio-wearing Sinatra Golden played by Issa Rae, has written a book that completely panders to white expectations of Black storytelling. Her book, “We’s Lives in Da Ghetto,” is flying off the shelves and is the new darling of white liberals.

Monk’s book isn’t “Black enough” and isn’t selling.
Sinatra Golden’s book, “We’s Lives in Da Ghetto,” is a best-selling novel.

Monk has had enough. He decides to write a satire under the name of Stagg R. Leigh, a convicted felon on the run. His book, ‘My Pafology,” is riddled with drugs, thugs and violence…basically all the things he thinks white people think Black people should write about. He’s shocked when the book snags a publisher right away.

He’s so upset that he pulls a Prince, and changes the title to “F-ck,” hoping he’ll sink the project. Guess what? The white publishers want the book even more because it’s so real and raw. It’s gutsy, like “gazing into an open wound.”

The film takes off from there. There so many lovely, endearing family moments in the storyline, minus the sugar-coating. Audiences will love the sleuthy jazzy soundtrack, backdrops of the family’s beach house and stark contrasts of what audiences might expect to see from this family, and who they really are.

The dichotomy of Monk’s frustration is seen early on in the movie in a memorable scene. “I don’t believe in race,” he says, as a white person steals his taxi. His agent responds, “The problem is, everyone else does.”

Movie times: Click here

Genre: Comedy-Drama

Director: Cord Jefferson

Actors:  Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown, John Ortiz, Erika Alexander, Leslie Uggams, Adam Brody, Keith David.

Running Time: 1 hour 57 min

Rating: R

Christine Van Tuyl
Christine Van Tuyl
Christine was born and raised in Texas, but moved to Coronado with her family as a teen in 1993. Although initially horrified by surfers, flannels and skateboards, she ultimately grew to love all things So-Cal. A graduate of UCSD, Christine got her first writing job on the KUSI ten o’clock news while simultaneously juggling a reporter position at the San Diego Community News Group. She worked as a public relations professional, a book editor, real estate professional, and a freelance writer before eventually succumbing to motherhood in 2008.A decade later, Christine resurfaced to start the Island Girl Blog, a Coronado lifestyle blog. In addition, she writes a monthly page for Crown City Magazine. Christine loves hanging out with her husband, Ian, and their two spirited daughters, Holland and Marley, who attend Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School. When she’s not working, you’ll find her practicing yoga, spilling coffee at school drop off, meeting friends for sushi, or sailing the Bay with her family and English Bulldog, Moshi. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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