cover image Blackass


A. Igoni Barrett. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-55597-733-7

On the morning of a long-awaited job interview, Furo Wariboko, a black Nigerian, wakes to find that he’s white. Rushing out of the house to avoid being seen, Furo ends up trekking across Lagos’s traffic-choked sprawl, sans phone, money, or an explanation for why he looks white and sounds Nigerian. But as he soon discovers, being an oyibo, or light-skinned person, comes with significant perks. Watching Furo as he shifts from trying to cope with his new circumstances to trying to profit from them is compelling, and Syreeta, who picks Furo up in a mall and invites him to share her sugar daddy–funded apartment, is a memorable character. For Americans unfamiliar with Nigeria, Lagos functions as another character in the book, a fascinating and chaotic megacity populated by people trying to move up in the world—some honestly, some less so. It’s no coincidence that Furo’s new job is selling self-help books. All this would be plenty, but Barrett, initially in the book as a bystander from whom Furo cadges a drink, becomes more central, as he too begins to undergo a transformation. The problem is that this second transformation—complete except for one key detail—feels less organic, more like a literary device. Nevertheless, Barrett’s debut novel is an original take on both metamorphosis and The Metamorphosis. (Mar.)