“I Am Not Sidney Poitier” by Percival Everett

I picked up I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett after reading a good review of it in an old copy of The Believer that I finally got around to reading on our Big Ass Family Trip Out East, aka the BAFTOE. But anyhoo, the book: it’s a satire on being black and not poor in the south, it reminded me of Confederacy of Dunces and Colson Whitehead’s John Henry Days. Our narrator is Not Sidney Poitier. Since his last name was Poitier, his mother thought she’d be making it clear who he wasn’t. Instead it just inspired the running joke of the book.

What’s your name?

Not Sidney.

Okay, then what is it?

I did recognize some references–getting arrested in a Southern town had a similar feel to In the Heat of the Night, while a trip to meet his girlfriend’s family was a send up of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. I got the sense there was a lot going on in other scenarios that might have been referencing other Sidney Poitier work I wasn’t familiar with. I was intrigued and amused by the presence of a professor named Percival Everett who people thought was brilliant, but was actually just messing with people. I’m not sure if this novel was brilliant, or just messing with people, but it was frequently funny in spite of its treatment of ongoing racism in the south, which is always depressing.

Silence fell on the table like a bad simile.


“How much money he got?” from the fat man.

“Ten crisp one-hundred-dollar bills,” the deputy said.

Tractor Cap whistled. “That must be close to a thousand.”

“Pretty close,” I said.

Also hilarious: everything that came out of fictional Ted Turner’s mouth.

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