In ‘Friday Black,’ Retail Is Bloody and the World Is Ending

The Wall Street Journal
By Ellen Gamerman

The short-story collection marks Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s debut.

“Friday Black,” a short-story collection that veers from absurd humor to extreme violence, is earning early raves and posing an inbox challenge for its debut author.

“I used to be on the outside, really, really, really wanting to be in,” said Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, the 27-year-old writer whose book comes out on Tuesday. “Now I’m sort of on the inside, totally overwhelmed by emails.”

The book’s title draws inspiration from the retailing monster that is Black Friday. In one story, zombie-like shoppers literally kill each other for deals. As it is in his other stories, the fiction is rooted in fact.

“I really did see humans step on each other’s legs and push each other, fighting over jeans or sneakers,” said the author, who worked in high school and college at the streetwear chain Against All Odds.

Mr. Adjei-Brenyah, a native of Spring Valley, N.Y., whose parents immigrated from Ghana, steeps the book in themes of capitalist perversions and racial injustice. It opens with “The Finkelstein 5,” about five black South Carolina children decapitated by a chainsaw-wielding white man, and the aftermath of the crime.

“I like to work in that space where, ‘Is it hyperbole? I don’t know,’ ” Mr. Adjei-Brenyah said. “When you kill someone with a gun or a chainsaw, they’re just as dead either way. When I say ‘chainsaw,’ you have to pay attention.”

In the last story, the world comes to an end and its inhabitants must relive the day on a cosmic loop. Two 14-year-old rivals find ever more sadistic ways to torture and kill each other and their neighbors. Yet the author manages to close with a hopeful note, as his heroine strikes the pose of a dancer in a final flash of light: “And if you are with your family, or anyone at all, when it comes, you feel silly and scared, but at least not alone.”

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Friday Black