Percival Everett’s audacious new novel, I Am Not Sidney Poitier, is narrated by a young man named Not Sidney Poitier, who happens to look exactly like Sidney Poitier. And like Everett’s 2002 novel Erasure, it’s a tour de force.
I Am Not Sydney Poitier, which begins as a coming-of-age story, turns into a domestic comedy and, finally, a comedic nightmare: As Not Sidney finds himself reliving the plot of one Sydney Poitier movie after another, his struggle to establish an original identity comes up against the very same prejudices those films exposed. But if Everett’s turned the fun-house into something like a torture chamber, it’s a torture chamber that’s full of feeling, and tells us a great deal about our newly “postracial” America. It’s also very, very funny.
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