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In the stories of Adjei-Brenyah’s debut, an amusement park lets players enter augmented reality to hunt terrorists or shoot intruders played by minority actors, a school shooting results in both the victim and gunman stuck in a shared purgatory, and an author sells his soul to a many-tongued god. Adjei-Brenyah's writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage, and invigorate you. In the stories of Adjei-Brenyah’s debut, an amusement park lets players enter augmented reality to hunt terrorists or shoot intruders played by minority actors, a school shooting results in both the victim and gunman stuck in a shared purgatory, and an author sells his soul to a many-tongued god. Adjei-Brenyah's writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage, and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day. These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world.


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In the stories of Adjei-Brenyah’s debut, an amusement park lets players enter augmented reality to hunt terrorists or shoot intruders played by minority actors, a school shooting results in both the victim and gunman stuck in a shared purgatory, and an author sells his soul to a many-tongued god. Adjei-Brenyah's writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage, and invigorate you. In the stories of Adjei-Brenyah’s debut, an amusement park lets players enter augmented reality to hunt terrorists or shoot intruders played by minority actors, a school shooting results in both the victim and gunman stuck in a shared purgatory, and an author sells his soul to a many-tongued god. Adjei-Brenyah's writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage, and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day. These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world.

30 review for Friday Black

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    The edge of the stories in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s debut collection Friday Black is razor sharp, ready to cut deep. This book is dark and captivating and essential. This book is a call to arms and it is a condemnation. Adjei-Brenyah offers powerful prose as parable. The writing in this outstanding collection will make you hurt and demand your hope. Read this book. Marvel at the intelligence of each of these stories and what they reveal about racism, capitalism, complacency and their insidious The edge of the stories in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s debut collection Friday Black is razor sharp, ready to cut deep. This book is dark and captivating and essential. This book is a call to arms and it is a condemnation. Adjei-Brenyah offers powerful prose as parable. The writing in this outstanding collection will make you hurt and demand your hope. Read this book. Marvel at the intelligence of each of these stories and what they reveal about racism, capitalism, complacency and their insidious reach.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Having recently read “The Heads of The Colored People”, a terrific debut collection of 12 short stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires — I reached for another debut collection of 12 more short stories. First - I have Goodreads member Meike to thank. It was her review that inspired me. Thank you Meike. So........... I had no idea what to expect. I still can’t entirely figure out the book cover’s drawing. I have some ideas - but I’m a little curious if there is a specific meaning behind it. I’ll dive r Having recently read “The Heads of The Colored People”, a terrific debut collection of 12 short stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires — I reached for another debut collection of 12 more short stories. First - I have Goodreads member Meike to thank. It was her review that inspired me. Thank you Meike. So........... I had no idea what to expect. I still can’t entirely figure out the book cover’s drawing. I have some ideas - but I’m a little curious if there is a specific meaning behind it. I’ll dive right in. That’s certainly what the author does with the first story called “The Finkelstein 5”. My mouth was hanging open reading it.....”WHAT THE HELL?” I almost didn’t trust myself - maybe I was reading things wrong? The author took brutality, extreme violence ( but thankfully not graphic), injustice, racism, and a broken criminal system to a whole new realm of......”what the f#@k?” BUT .... I don’t want spoil the story by dishing out details. I totally loved reading these stories knowing nothing about them. I went in completely blind and I was blindsided. .....in a good way! I didn’t get the point of the next SHORT -SHORT - really really SHORT story. “Things My Mother Said”. I got a message - without much a meal to go with it... but as I said it’s ‘short’... so it’s not long enough to irritate. 😊 Moving on.... It took me awhile to realize that not only are these stories set in the near future ( not so far out -by any means), but perhaps the author has created a genre of his own: “Political Dystopian Fiction”. Adjei-Brenyah examines the Black experience throughput and every story feels political. The title story “Friday Black” is priceless ....it’s entertaining in the way dark humor is...but what is actually so disturbing when you really tell the truth to yourself ( but read this story first to get what I’m talking about)...is it will be easy to see the absurdity of people - but what’s less easy to see WE EACH ARE PART OF THIS insanity. I can think of times I’ve sat around with people, maybe over a glass of wine talking arrogantly about what other people do that’s nuts - things I wouldn’t do - BUT IF I REALLY LOOK CLOSER -I am part of the same problem that I blame. These stories are excellent - terrific debut! It doesn’t take long to learn that we have been introduced to a fearless new author with fresh ideas. We can’t help but look at the political & social issues we grapple with in our current lives. Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is a long name. I’d like to remember it - remember HIM.... I don’t want to stumble and feel awkward trying to remember it five months from now So.... maybe? He wouldn’t mind if I simply called him *NANA*.....( I can definitely remember that)..... which brings me warm fuzzy feelings ....loving the dog NANA in Peter Pan. I look forward to reading more books by *Nana*!!! Congrats to Nana on his powerful debut short stories!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah Is a "5 Under 35" Honoree 2018 of the National Book Foundation ..and this is how you write cutting-edge fiction about the world we live in! Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut is bold, powerful, innovative, and poetic. Every other blurb is randomly claiming that the author of the respective book has a unique voice - this author actually does, and this fall, his short stories are mandatory reading. "Friday Black" encompasses 12 stories, many of them dealing with racism, consu Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah Is a "5 Under 35" Honoree 2018 of the National Book Foundation ..and this is how you write cutting-edge fiction about the world we live in! Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut is bold, powerful, innovative, and poetic. Every other blurb is randomly claiming that the author of the respective book has a unique voice - this author actually does, and this fall, his short stories are mandatory reading. "Friday Black" encompasses 12 stories, many of them dealing with racism, consumerism, violence, and the culture of egotism and hate - this book is a comment on today's America (which doesn't mean that some of the issues discussed aren't prevalent in other countries as well). What makes this collection so special is the way the author approaches those topics, introducing fantastical elements, projecting the consequences of the cultural climate on invented scenarios and highlighting tendencies by smartly employing hyperbole. Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah wants his readers to look straight into the abyss: A white man kills black kids with a chainsaw and claims self-defense, Black Friday turns a shopping mall into the battleground of the zombie apocalypse, "Good" is now a drug for school children, and there's an amusement park that could have been invented by horror director Eli Roth. On Twitter, Roxane Gay stated that if you like Childish Gambino's "This is America" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjW...), you will also love this - and I see where this comparison is coming from. Also, both of these works of art punch you in the face and leave you in complete shock and awe. In case you need more comparisons: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's voice is as recognizable as that of Ottessa Moshfegh, and his disregard for narrative conventions reminds me of Carmen Maria Machado. Oh, and in case I haven't made this clear enough by now: You should READ THIS BOOK. The whole thing is great, but especially "The Finkelstein 5" and "Zimmer Land".

  4. 5 out of 5

    Reggie

    Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah proves he is a star by beginning a literary career with this charged story collection. The commentary on capitalism & consumerism alone is worth your time. Whether it's the subtle commentary through trademark symbols on select items the characters from several stories use, most notably the drugs from "The Era," or the larger things such as mall patrons literally killing each other to get the best Black Friday sales in the eponymous "Friday Black." I saw a little of my Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah proves he is a star by beginning a literary career with this charged story collection. The commentary on capitalism & consumerism alone is worth your time. Whether it's the subtle commentary through trademark symbols on select items the characters from several stories use, most notably the drugs from "The Era," or the larger things such as mall patrons literally killing each other to get the best Black Friday sales in the eponymous "Friday Black." I saw a little of my old self in the character IceKing who narrates "Friday Black," & "How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing." IceKing is a charismatic & cocky employee of a clothing store who sells his ass off and is really convinced that if he wasn't around to "save the day" that his place of employment would potentially suffer. As if he isn't as disposable as anyone else, regardless of your stats, or the amount of pepperoni pizza your District Manager will treat you to. The commentary on race through the (clearly) "Song of Solomon" inspired intro "The Finkelstein 5," has garnered high praise in many circles, but my personal preference, and perhaps the best story in the collection, was "Zimmer Land." I really appreciate the conversation I feel "Zimmer Land" wants us to have around the packaging, selling & consumption of Black and Brown pain. There has been several times when I've seen this collection compared to Black Mirror... I suppose now is the time for me to give that a watch... While I'm doing that I'll be patiently awaiting Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's next project.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    FRIDAY BLACK is hard to explain. The best I can do is say that it's like if BLACK MIRROR imagined a future based on the growing horrors of racism, violence, and capitalism rather than the growing horrors of technology. This collection of stories does what really excellent sci-fi does and explores the present through the future. And yet, I feel like I'm still underselling it. I haven't quite made it clear just how reading this book is kind of like probing at a raw wound with a knife. I had to put FRIDAY BLACK is hard to explain. The best I can do is say that it's like if BLACK MIRROR imagined a future based on the growing horrors of racism, violence, and capitalism rather than the growing horrors of technology. This collection of stories does what really excellent sci-fi does and explores the present through the future. And yet, I feel like I'm still underselling it. I haven't quite made it clear just how reading this book is kind of like probing at a raw wound with a knife. I had to put it down a few times just to give myself some space. Reading more than one story at a time is an impressive feat of mental strength. This author is one to watch.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Irby

    ASTONISHING

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marchpane

    Fierce and invigorating, the stories in Friday Black demand attention like a slap in the face. This collection inhabits the ‘borderlands’ between genres, to borrow a term from Michael Chabon, sort of literary, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, maybe all-of-the-above at the same time. In one story, it’s hard to tell (in a deliberate, clever way) whether the backdrop is a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic wasteland, or just an ordinary shopping mall. Another takes a Groundhog Day scenario to violent extremes Fierce and invigorating, the stories in Friday Black demand attention like a slap in the face. This collection inhabits the ‘borderlands’ between genres, to borrow a term from Michael Chabon, sort of literary, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, maybe all-of-the-above at the same time. In one story, it’s hard to tell (in a deliberate, clever way) whether the backdrop is a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic wasteland, or just an ordinary shopping mall. Another takes a Groundhog Day scenario to violent extremes, asking how would people really behave if there were zero consequences, every day ending with a reset? Contemporary issues like race, or rampant consumerism, are explored in surreal and/or futuristic settings. The blend of satire, cultural commentary and high-concept genre entertainment that Adjei-Brenyah employs here brings to mind TV anthology series Black Mirror or the film Get Out. It’s a style perfectly suited to the short story format: each one is a quick, sharp jab that leaves behind a powerful impression quite disproportionate to the time it takes to read. There are no dull moments here, and while a few of the stories were stand-outs, the whole collection is consistently great. 4.5 stars rounded up for sheer gutsiness.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Blair

    When a story makes you cry three pages in, you know you're reading something special. 'The Finkelstein 5', the first short story in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut collection, is astounding. It follows a young man named Emmanuel as he prepares for a job interview, taking steps (modifying his voice, wearing smart clothes, smiling and being constantly polite) to ensure his Blackness is dialled down as far as possible. He's happy about the interview, but 'he also felt guilty about feeling happy ab When a story makes you cry three pages in, you know you're reading something special. 'The Finkelstein 5', the first short story in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut collection, is astounding. It follows a young man named Emmanuel as he prepares for a job interview, taking steps (modifying his voice, wearing smart clothes, smiling and being constantly polite) to ensure his Blackness is dialled down as far as possible. He's happy about the interview, but 'he also felt guilty about feeling happy about anything. Most people he knew were still mourning the Finkelstein verdict'. A white man has been found not guilty of any wrongdoing in using a chainsaw to decapitate five black children outside the Finkelstein Library. He claims he was protecting his children. The controversial verdict sparks violent protests by groups known as 'Namers', and on his way to the interview, Emmanuel meets an old friend who is keen to act. This story is ferocious satire, but it's only a hair's breadth from the truth. In the wake of the death of Trayvon Martin and other similar cases, it really isn't that hard to imagine this actually happening. Emmanuel's awareness and regulation of his Blackness is a brilliant articulation of something that will be immediately recognisable to so many – a tactic painfully familiar to anyone who's ever been part of any sort of minority. Nothing else in the book got to me quite like 'The Finkelstein 5', but it's consistently both enjoyable and biting. 'Zimmer Land' is another standout – George Saunders by way of Black Mirror. The narrator works at a theme park where 'patrons' can role-play a scenario in which they are attacked by, and ultimately 'kill', a black assailant. A trio of stories – 'Friday Black', 'How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing', and 'In Retail' – are set at the Prominent Mall and centre on the day-to-day lives of retail workers. Like 'The Finkelstein 5', 'Friday Black' takes reality and stretches it a little out of shape: the stampedes that accompany Black Friday routinely result in multiple deaths (129 last year); customers speak in a garbled language only Black Friday veterans can understand. The collection isn't perfect. 'Lark Street' and 'Light Spitter' both feel like ambitious experiments that don't quite come off. The first is about a man who is haunted by the foetuses his girlriend aborted; the second has a school shooter and his victim teaming up – as ghosts – to try and make things right. I really enjoyed 'Through the Flash', in which a community is trapped in a repeating version of the same day, but like a few of the others it could've done with either editing down or expanding to novel length. Sometimes the concepts are too big for the short-story format. Friday Black is a collection that pulses with ideas and indignation. It incorporates elements of science fiction and magical realism but still has much to say about our lives now. 'The Finkelstein 5' in particular is one of those stories I will never forget. I received an advance review copy of Friday Black from the publisher through NetGalley. TinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

  9. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    I forget where I first heard of Adjei-Brenyah, but the name of his debut story collection was so similar to Esi Edugyan’s much-lauded Washington Black that I wanted to read both to make sure they were separated in my mind. Now it is difficult to imagine I would ever forget the title story “Friday Black,” about a young man in a retail store setting dealing with the sales and buying mania of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the official opening of the Christmas season. There is indeed I forget where I first heard of Adjei-Brenyah, but the name of his debut story collection was so similar to Esi Edugyan’s much-lauded Washington Black that I wanted to read both to make sure they were separated in my mind. Now it is difficult to imagine I would ever forget the title story “Friday Black,” about a young man in a retail store setting dealing with the sales and buying mania of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the official opening of the Christmas season. There is indeed something black in the American psyche, that would celebrate a day of such whipped-up and fruitless passion for more than we need or can effectively use. I did not read the first story in the collection, “The Finkelstein 5,” until long into my perusal of the collection. Just as well, because it is a staring full-face into the racism we still see and hear all around us today. The characters who are black adjust themselves to fit into the white overculture, adjusting their “blackness” on a ten-point scale. Adjei-Brenyah draws from the incidental murders of young girls attending Sunday school, of a young man shot as he walked down the night-darkened street of his neighborhood, of a young man so angry at the deaths of the others that he considers, for a moment, fighting back. There is a barely-disguised cameo of the talking heads on right-wing TV talk shows, with Adjei-Brenyah carefully picking out for us the most offensive and patently absurd of their comments regarding white fear of unarmed teens and children of color. My favorite of the stories in the collection has to be “Zimmer Land.” In this significant piece, which I can imagine being chosen for Best-Of collections until Adjei-Brenyah is old and gray, a young man works at a kind of play-station where members of the community are given the opportunity to see how they would react when their fear or anger instincts are aroused. Patrons are issued a weapon when they enter the play space set, a paint gun whose force can rupture fake blood sensors in the mecha-suit of the player. Mecha-suits sound like transformer kits, inflating to protect the torso, legs, and arms of players, and to intimidate. Patrons are not told to use the weapons, but the mere convenience of the weapons is an opportunity, and the rush of shooting is like a fast-acting drug. Isaiah is black and he is the player white patrons come to test their emotions against in a “highly curated environment.” When Isaiah complains to management that most of the patrons are repeats, coming frequently to fake-kill him and not learning anything new about the sources of their aggression, perhaps even “equating killing with justice,” his bosses tell him his heart better be in the job ‘cause there are others who’ll do the work with real aggression and commitment. At least four of Adjei-Brenyah’s signature pieces in this collection describe the soul-destroying unreality of America’s retail space, where salespeople are rewarded for up-selling and given praise, if not bonuses, for selling the most [unnecessary] stuff to the most [vulnerable] people. We are reminded that there are several ways to make money to live while writing, and in Adjei-Brenyah’s case it is retail sales rather than, say, restaurant work or construction. He gives us a look at what we never thought to ask as we made our way through the racks of shirts or stacks of jeans. Highly praised by other acclaimed writers in front-page and back-cover blurbs, this collection heralds the arrival of someone we will continue to look out for. The ideas behind the work is what is impressive, besides just the writing skill. Adjei-Brenyah knows one doesn’t have to be sky-diving to make the work interesting. It’s about what you’re thinking about while sky-diving. Late Night comedian Seth Meyers interviews Adjei-Brenyah and Book Riot interviews Adjei-Brenyah here.

  10. 5 out of 5

    leynes

    Holy fuck! Everyone who loves Black Mirror will certainly find some stories to absolutely geek out and gush over in this collection. Friday Black is a brilliant and fresh piece of work, that encompasses 12 thought-provoking short stories. Whilst I found some of them to be subpar (and my average rating of these stories is 3.41), I couldn’t help but be incredibly impressed by this debut collection. A third of these stories got a 5 star rating from me, that is almost unheard of when it comes to me Holy fuck! Everyone who loves Black Mirror will certainly find some stories to absolutely geek out and gush over in this collection. Friday Black is a brilliant and fresh piece of work, that encompasses 12 thought-provoking short stories. Whilst I found some of them to be subpar (and my average rating of these stories is 3.41), I couldn’t help but be incredibly impressed by this debut collection. A third of these stories got a 5 star rating from me, that is almost unheard of when it comes to me and short story collections. I am shooketh to my core, especially The Finkelstein 5 and How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing blew my fucking socks off and should be read by everyone. I was expecting a moving collection of stories focusing on the topics of racism and what it means to be Black in modern day the United States (Roxane Gay fittingly said that everyone who enjoys Childish Gambino’s This Is America will certainly enjoy Adjei-Brenyah’s work). Friday Black, however, is so much more than that. It features many sci-fi and futuristic elements. Adjei-Brenyah lays out a chilling dystopia for our future, one in which consumerism and capitalism have taken its toll on people, literally making them into shallow shells; a future in which racism is handled as a game to be played as leisure. And even though I didn’t like all of the stories, I cannot deny that they were all cleverly written. Adjei-Brenyah has a gift for wiring in an effortless way. You will literally fly through this collection and be kept on your toes by compelling and thought-provoking ideas presented in these stories. The Finkelstein 5 was by far my favorite story in this collection. The protagonist lives in a world in which his Blackness is measured on a 1-10 scale. The way he speaks, the choices he makes in regards to his wardrobe, the people he chooses to hang out with … everything is measured on that scale. Initially, the protagonist tries to keep his “score” as low as possible in hopes of a better job and to not get scrutinised in people, but when the killer of five innocent Black children is acquitted and rioters hit the street, he cannot help himself and finds himself amidst a mob hunting for revenge and blood. It is such a chilling story that will resonate with everyone who has been paying attention to the news lately. Adjei-Brenyah keeps it interesting by not going for the predictable black-and-white route (aka: good versus bad), the protagonist is morally grey, the choices he makes may be understandable but they are still bad choices. I cannot stop thinking about it. Please, read it now! Things My Mother Said is only two pages long and functions as a sort of love letter to his mother. Albeit it is short and kept very simple, the last lines truly resonated with me: “For the record, I know I was lucky, I know I am lucky, I don’t think you’re stupid, I know I am not your friend, I hope you can be proud of me.” There is something so incredibly human and touching about those last lines, they really evoke the feelings I have towards my parents. The Era displays a chilling futuristic setting in which human beings are ranked by their “usefulness” to society. “Clear-birth” children aren’t worth much as opposed to genetically modified babies who are designed to excel at certain areas in life. Similarly to Brave New World, everyone is kept happy by a drug called “Good”. I thought the juxtaposition between the “old way” (as we know it) and this futuristic setting was a little clunky and predictable (along the lines of “everything used to be better”) but apart from that I could see this narrative being turned into a compelling Black Mirror episode. Lark Street was one of the worst stories in here and the only one that I find somewhat problematic. In it, Adjei-Brenyah discussed the aftermath of an abortion in a truly silly and manipulative way, by making the aborted fetus come to live to haunt their parents. I get that abortion is a complex topic and the emotional toll it can take on couples to go down that route can be a topic of interest, however, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this story served as a criticism in regards to abortion, because Adjei-Brenyah always referred to the act as “murder”, which is absolute bullshit and something I 100% do not endorse. The Hospital Where is another one of the weaker stories in here. I really can’t tell you much about it because I didn’t get it at all. It was about a man who accompanied his father to the hospital, then started worshipping a weird deity and in the end rid all of the patients from their illness. It was hella weird and I got no meaning out of it. Zimmer Land, however, was one of the strongest stories in this collection. It had me at the edge of my seat and made me feel so outraged. It is probably the story that will get people talking the most, as in it a future is shown in which racism can be exercised as a sport in a simulation. It shows the life of a Black man who works at such a simulation park, white people come there every day to shoot him down for fun. It is a chilling story that displays a lot of race hatred that could be potentially triggering to people. It is the most “relevant” story, if you want to call it that, because important questions surrounding the stand-your-ground law, gun policies and the passing on of racist ideas to one’s children are raised. Friday Black is an exaggerated tale about the blatant consumerism in our society, depicting the work day of a shop assistant on Black Friday. And whilst it is exaggerated depicting shoppers as monsters without a conscience who are ravenous and cannot stop buying things, it is a fact that people have actually died and been severely injured in the United States due to Black Friday Sales. It’s a story that will make you squirm. The Lion & the Spider is a short story that juxtaposes the life of a young boy who has to care for his family after his father left them and the fable of the spider and the lion. It shows what it takes to get “to the mountain top” and find your own way. I think the idea behind this story is very clever, personally though, I didn’t do anything for me and I found it quite forgettable. Light Spitter is another very timely story as it deals with the reality of school shootings and the rampant bullying that persists in American schools today. I appreciate the importance of this story, however, I didn’t find the fantastical element (the souls of the shooter who killed himself and the soul of his victim come alive and try to reform another possible school shooter) that compelling. Oddly enough, it was the only story in this collection that felt rather cheesy, since it showed the way in which to deal with someone who was bullied and is thus desperate in a very over-simplified way. How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing is an absolute brilliant story, that functions as an addition to the previous story Friday Black. In it, we follow the same shop assistant and his life at the fashion store. This time, however, there’s a new vendor in the game who tries to usurp his place as the most successful salesman of the store. The reason I loved this story so much is the fact that you can tell that Adjei-Brenyah dealt at retail before. The sarcastic yet realistic way in which he details how retailers manipulate their costumers into buying shit was absolutely hilarious to read about. It was the story that made me laugh the most because it was so true. In Retail can almost be read as a plea for more kindness when it comes to speaking to salesmen. In it, Adjei-Brenyah gives voice to those people who are brought to the brink of desperation because they are treated like shit on a daily basis and can’t do nothing about, if they don’t want to be fired. Adjei-Brenyah does this very cleverly by showing the reader the case of a girl who committed suicide because she couldn’t take it anymore, and an endearing snippet out of another retailer’s day as he has a fun time helping a Spanish costumer find clothes for her grandchildren. Be kind, people, it’s not that hard. Through the Flash is one of the best futuristic stories in this collection. It displays a future in which humanity is stuck in a loop. Our protagonist will forever be 14 years old and she cannot die, as her day will just start all over again when she is killed. The reason why life in this loop is so dangerous is the fact that every person only has one trait/desire that is extremely present in their personality. Our protagonist’s father, for instance, wants nothing more than murdering his daughter, whilst her brother has become a genius. I thought it was incredible how the world was so vividly constructed within a few pages and the search of meaning in a meaningless world was explored. Absolutely brilliant!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Quann

    Just missed sneaking this one under the wire for my last read of 2018, but it also happens to be a fine way to start the new year. These stories are (mostly) dystopian sci-fi, but think more George Saunders than Margaret Atwood. Like Saunders, Adjei-Brenyah has a dark sense of humour and a clever way of looking at the problems facing the modern American. The stories feature some pretty gruesome and shocking violence, but the book never relishes in the bloodshed and it always packs a punch. Frida Just missed sneaking this one under the wire for my last read of 2018, but it also happens to be a fine way to start the new year. These stories are (mostly) dystopian sci-fi, but think more George Saunders than Margaret Atwood. Like Saunders, Adjei-Brenyah has a dark sense of humour and a clever way of looking at the problems facing the modern American. The stories feature some pretty gruesome and shocking violence, but the book never relishes in the bloodshed and it always packs a punch. Friday Black contains great stories, a great new voice, and happens to be a slim readable collection. A lovely Christmas gift from my wife and I'm definitely on-board for whatever Adjei-Brenyah has up next. [4.5 Stars]

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    Named as one of the most anticipated books of Autumn 2018, Friday Black is a refreshingly original anthology of stories that use fiction as a device to explore and discuss some very prominent real-world issues, and because of that, this is a collection that is thought-provoking and with much substance to it - something that always really appeals to me. Although the stories maintain objectivity, they are also brutally honest about the situation the world is currently in. Amongst the major real-wor Named as one of the most anticipated books of Autumn 2018, Friday Black is a refreshingly original anthology of stories that use fiction as a device to explore and discuss some very prominent real-world issues, and because of that, this is a collection that is thought-provoking and with much substance to it - something that always really appeals to me. Although the stories maintain objectivity, they are also brutally honest about the situation the world is currently in. Amongst the major real-world issues that are explored are discrimination (between races, cultures etc), prejudice, capitalism/capitalistic societies, consumerism and materialism. These are merely a few of the problems that make up the core of each of the twelve tales. This is a refreshing, exciting and compelling way to view contemporary subjects. This is a wonderful compilation of short stories that speak to the world we currently inhabit. Unless you've been burying your head in the sand for many a long year (actually, more like a couple of decades), each of these separate concerns should be already known to you. Friday Black shines a light on these matters bringing them to the forefront of our minds. This is one of the most enjoyable books I've had the pleasure to read this year, and it certainly lives up to the title of 'most anticipated of 2018'. Friday Black makes the reader think about the state of the world and our future here on earth, it does also have a message of hope which, in my opinion, is absolutely vital right now. Despite having finished reading this quite a while ago, I haven't stopped thinking about it ever since. It feels like a book that will leave an indelible imprint both in my mind and in my heart for the foreseeable. I am already pining for more from Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah., please don't wait too long, we readers need to read more of your wonderful work. This is not only deserving of a wide readership, but it is also worthy of the full five stars! Many thanks to riverrun for an ARC. I was not required to post a review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Never Without a Book™

    Finklestein 5, Zimmer Land, Light Spitter and Through the Flash are my absolute favorites. Great collection of short stories.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    3.75. Adjei-Brenyah admirably carries off some seriously outlandish stuff (and even when a story doesn't work (aborted foetuses) you have to admire his bravery) and is clearly a major talent.

  15. 4 out of 5

    MeaganCM

    My favorite stories were Finklestein 5, Lark Street, Zimmer Land, Friday Black, Light Spitter and Through the Flash. These were the more unique and thought provoking stories that explored some very tough topics. I didn't expect the stories to be so graphic and dark. I think that's why I gravitated towards them! The other stories were still very well written. I believe there was only 1 story that I didn't enjoy and one that I just literally didn't understand (Things My Mother Said-- I'm still tryi My favorite stories were Finklestein 5, Lark Street, Zimmer Land, Friday Black, Light Spitter and Through the Flash. These were the more unique and thought provoking stories that explored some very tough topics. I didn't expect the stories to be so graphic and dark. I think that's why I gravitated towards them! The other stories were still very well written. I believe there was only 1 story that I didn't enjoy and one that I just literally didn't understand (Things My Mother Said-- I'm still trying to figure out the meaning and the overall message). The others were good they just didn't speak me. Overall I enjoyed this collection and would reread it 😊😊

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah was recently named in the US as one of the 2018 ‘5 Under 35’ Honorees by the National Book Foundation, an award for authors aged under 35, who have published their first and only book of fiction within the last five years, and 'whose debut titles provide a first look at their exceptional talent as fiction writers.’ He was nominated by Colson Whitehead, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for his The Underground Railroad. This book - Friday Black - a collection of shor Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah was recently named in the US as one of the 2018 ‘5 Under 35’ Honorees by the National Book Foundation, an award for authors aged under 35, who have published their first and only book of fiction within the last five years, and 'whose debut titles provide a first look at their exceptional talent as fiction writers.’ He was nominated by Colson Whitehead, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for his The Underground Railroad. This book - Friday Black - a collection of short-stories, is the book that won him that honour, and it is certainly a striking debut, with a powerful and distinctive voice, covering both themes highly relevant to the Black Lives Matter campaign, and also on the ills of the US consumerist society. And the stories stray into the speculative fiction area, often based on real life but taking it to another extreme. One example is the story that opens the collection, The Finkelstein 5, perhaps my favourite of all. It begins: Fela, the headless girl, walked toward Emmanuel. Her neck jagged with red savagery. She was silent, but he could feel her waiting for him to do something, anything. Then his phone rang, and he woke up. He took a deep breath and set the Blackness in his voice down to a 1.5 on a 10-point scale. ... That morning, like every morning, the first decision he made regarded his Blackness. His skin was a deep, constant brown. In public, when people could actually see him, it was impossible to get his Blackness down to anywhere near a 1.5. If he wore a tie, wing-tipped shoes, smiled constantly, used his indoor voice , and kept his hands strapped and calm at his sides, he could get his Blackness as low as 4.0. The Finkelstein 5 are five young black kids that have been killed gruesomely by a white father. He claims to have been defending his children, except the only thing that caused a threat appears to have been the colour of their skin, and yet he successfully pleads self-defence in court. The story appears exaggerated but this is 2018 where an off-duty policewoman can shoot an unarmed black man in his own apartment, because she entered the wrong flat and thought it was hers, and then parts of the press can attempt to retro-justify this because there was a tiny amount of cannabis found on the premises, cannabis found when police got a search warrant seemingly for the purpose of retro-finding incriminating evidence. In the story Emmanuel attempts to find work in a mall, but when he is unable to do so - the shop has reached its 'quota' and doesn't want to appear too 'urban' by employing too many minority staff - gets caught up in a revenge moment. A story with a similar theme, but inventive twist, is Zimmer Land told by an African-American worker in a Westworld like theme park, except the aim of the park is for white citizens to act out their fantasies of defending their families. Another highlight - this time focusing on the consumerist theme is Friday Black, one of a number of stories set in a clothing store. Here the shopping frenzy that is today Black Friday is taken to a whole new level, with dead bodies littering the scene: Maybe eighty people rush through the gate, clawing and stampeding. Pushing racks and bodies aside . Have you ever seen people run from a fire or gunshots? It’s like that, with less fear and more hunger. From my cabin, I see a child, a girl maybe six years old, disappear as the wave of consumer fervor swallows her up. She is sprawled facedown with dirty shoe prints on her pink coat. And yet the sales person narrating the story is focused more on hitting his targets than saving lives. The collection is perhaps less successful when it gets more into dystopian speculative fiction - e.g. the stories Through the Flash or The Era. I am showing my prejudice here against the short-story form, but the stories such as these ones that attempted to build new worlds or set-ups fell a little between two stools - too long for a short-story but not developed enough for a novella: they felt more like sketches for a novel than complete works. And perhaps the other criticism would be that the author is better at arresting openings and creating an interesting set-up, but not quite so good at distinctive endings, which matters more in short-stories than in the longer form. Nevertheless a worthwhile collection and a highly promising debut: 3.5 stars Thanks to the publisher for the ARC

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Adjei-Brenyah’s dystopian, satirical short stories are so inventive, that one may miss the ‘bite’ as they relate to our American society. There is violence in ‘The Finkelstein 5’ whereby George Wilson Dunn decapitates five children with his chainsaw because he felt threatened. The resulting trial is a farce. The author chooses to tell this story through Emmanuel John who grades himself on a ‘blackness rating’ system. Dressing in a suit and tie rates a lower rating than if he wears a hoodie. The Adjei-Brenyah’s dystopian, satirical short stories are so inventive, that one may miss the ‘bite’ as they relate to our American society. There is violence in ‘The Finkelstein 5’ whereby George Wilson Dunn decapitates five children with his chainsaw because he felt threatened. The resulting trial is a farce. The author chooses to tell this story through Emmanuel John who grades himself on a ‘blackness rating’ system. Dressing in a suit and tie rates a lower rating than if he wears a hoodie. The outcome of the trial causes him to struggle to understand the rules of a society that means to rule you. Adjei-Brenyah utilizes science fiction in some of his strange and beautiful stories. In ‘The Era’, we have genetically modified people and those who are not, called the ‘clear-born’, and the use of an addictive drug called ‘Good’ that is injected by the authorities. Is it better to be true and authentic, or synthetic? In ‘The Light Spitter’ a school shooter and his victim team up as ghosts to make things right. And then there is ‘Through the Flash’ which is an intense Groundhog Day story whereby Ama—the Knife Queen—can take revenge day-after-day. Oh yes, and then there are the stories relating to the retail world—‘How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King’ and ‘In Retail’. The first one is a hilarious take on Black Friday craziness whereby patrons can become zombies. But ‘Zimmerland’ is the most appalling. Here, the black employees don protective wear so that they can be ‘killed’ day-after-day by bloodthirsty patrons. Enjoy these excellently written, highly original satiric stories addressing racism and capitalism. Their dystopian focus is balanced by protagonists that have a certain sense of integrity and compassion.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Read By RodKelly

    With all of the high praise this collection has received, I was very excited to read it. Overall, I enjoyed it even though I wasn't expecting speculative fiction, a genre that often leaves me cold and unsatisfied. The standouts in the collection are The Finkelstein 5, Zimmer Land, How to Sell a Jacket as Told by IceKing, and Friday Black, which is an utterly brilliant story and deservedly gives the book it's title. The rest had no effect on me whatsoever beyond being cleverly written.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sunita

    This is a stylish, assured, often devastating collection of short stories. The first story sets the tone and is laugh-out-loud funny and gut-punching and horrifying, all at once. They are set in an alternate contemporary US, more or less, and they focus on race, class, suburbia, and early (not young) adulthood and how its experienced today. The portrayal of race and what it is like to live as a black person (especially a black man) can be brutal, but it's also matter-of-fact, and the difficultie This is a stylish, assured, often devastating collection of short stories. The first story sets the tone and is laugh-out-loud funny and gut-punching and horrifying, all at once. They are set in an alternate contemporary US, more or less, and they focus on race, class, suburbia, and early (not young) adulthood and how its experienced today. The portrayal of race and what it is like to live as a black person (especially a black man) can be brutal, but it's also matter-of-fact, and the difficulties of navigating society are offset in some of the stories by the warm of family life (although in other stories the family is anything but a refuge). My main criticism of the book is that once the reader has adjusted to the storytelling and literary styles, it becomes more of the same as you continue to read. There are a number of stories set in retail culture and malls, and they are insightful and cutting, but they basically repeat similar insights. A lesser criticism is that the stories' central characters are almost all men, and the one story narrated by a female character isn't convincing in terms of the characterization. Not so much because she didn't feel like a girl, but because she didn't feel like a unique individual. There are dystopian and alternate-reality elements, but for me the power came from the extent to which this felt as if it *could* happen in our world.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn Crupi

    The best fiction shakes you up – this is the best fiction and I feel like a snow globe. I’m not sure any of us could ever be ready for something as electric and essential as FRIDAY BLACK and I’m so happy to have been rocked to my core. This collection of illuminating and mind-expanding stories has had me captivated. This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and I feel equally exhausted and exhilarated, spent and satiated. FRIDAY BLACK will set you on fire and all I can really say is The best fiction shakes you up – this is the best fiction and I feel like a snow globe. I’m not sure any of us could ever be ready for something as electric and essential as FRIDAY BLACK and I’m so happy to have been rocked to my core. This collection of illuminating and mind-expanding stories has had me captivated. This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and I feel equally exhausted and exhilarated, spent and satiated. FRIDAY BLACK will set you on fire and all I can really say is get ready to burn bright. Adjei-Brenyah has talent to spare and his potential is breathtaking – I’m already anticipating what comes next.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Puck

    "Your brother, even if you ain’t met him a day in your life, is your business. You feel me?” No time for romance this February: Friday Black roared me awake with its peculiar, striking tales about racism, capitalism and a (unfair) fight for justice. Most of the stories take place in a dystopian America, but you don’t have to look hard at reality to see where Adjei-Brenyah’s inspiration came from. After all, what to think of the black kids in “The Era” that need a shot of Good to behave well in "Your brother, even if you ain’t met him a day in your life, is your business. You feel me?” No time for romance this February: Friday Black roared me awake with its peculiar, striking tales about racism, capitalism and a (unfair) fight for justice. Most of the stories take place in a dystopian America, but you don’t have to look hard at reality to see where Adjei-Brenyah’s inspiration came from. After all, what to think of the black kids in “The Era” that need a shot of Good to behave well in school? The hoards of zombie-like buyers attacking shopping malls during Friday Black? Or, one of the darkest tales, about theme park “Zimmer Land”? Here white patrons are allowed to shoot black ‘intruders’ so to explore problem-solving in a safe environment. When an intruder asks why there is no not-shooting option in the game, he gets ignored. "And I won’t bother with my usual argument: that it was better for me to get fake blasted ten or twenty million times a day than for an actual kid to get murdered out of the world forever. Did anyone every think of that, ever?" While not every story was as strong – Light Spitter and Lark Street fell flat for me – a tale like “The Finkelstein 5” was so enraging that I would love to see it continued. Adjei-Brenyah uses his sharp prose to explore complex topics in ways that make you think, that make you laugh at the dark jokes, that set your teeth in anger. A thought-provoking debut filled with sharp commentary, dark satire and frightening messages. 3,75 stars and I will definitely keep my eye out for this author.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Trike

    Most of these stories are Science Fiction, two words which are repulsive to folks who read “propuh lit-trah-churrr”, but we don’t get anywhere by denying facts. When you have stories that feature strength-enhancing exoskeletons and self-driving cars (“Zimmer Land”), or reimagine Black Friday shoppers as consumer-crazed zombies who will kill to get a bargain (“Friday Black”) or imagine a world where political correctness doesn’t exist, causing everyone to be honest to the point of cruelty (“The E Most of these stories are Science Fiction, two words which are repulsive to folks who read “propuh lit-trah-churrr”, but we don’t get anywhere by denying facts. When you have stories that feature strength-enhancing exoskeletons and self-driving cars (“Zimmer Land”), or reimagine Black Friday shoppers as consumer-crazed zombies who will kill to get a bargain (“Friday Black”) or imagine a world where political correctness doesn’t exist, causing everyone to be honest to the point of cruelty (“The Era”) or a world where everyone experiences Groundhog Day after the nuclear apocalypse (“After the Flash”), well, that’s sci-fi and no mistake. The weaker stories here are straight fiction which don’t have plots and exist, as much literature does, more as a Rorschach test for the reader than anything else. I find those types of stories tedious, but fortunately they are few and far between here. Based on these stories, I suspect that Adjei-Brenyah has spent at least some time working retail in a mall, which is fodder for plenty of horror stories. The four I mentioned in the first paragraph are the standouts for me. They do what all great Science Fiction stories do: they look at our society through the allegorical lens of new technology. “Zimmer Land” is the least subtle but the most razor sharp of the bunch, positing a disneyland (to borrow John Varley’s lowercase nouning of the amusement park experience) where white people can act tough and freely “kill” black actors in a Florida “stand your ground” scenario. Adjei-Brenyah packs in a lot of commentary in a relatively short space, and this is one of those SF stories with a social bite that would be perfectly at home on the TV series Black Mirror. Overall this is a stellar debut.

  23. 4 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    “If I had words left in me, I would not be here.” When I started reading this book I could see what the hype was about. This debut collection of short stories is cutting, sharp, refreshing, bizarre and is here to tackle racial issues, capitalism and other topics I am here for authors taking pen to paper for. While I did enjoy a lot of the stories, others veered too far left for me and I was like puzzled. Overall, this book read like a series of Black Mirror and I would love to see these storie “If I had words left in me, I would not be here.” When I started reading this book I could see what the hype was about. This debut collection of short stories is cutting, sharp, refreshing, bizarre and is here to tackle racial issues, capitalism and other topics I am here for authors taking pen to paper for. While I did enjoy a lot of the stories, others veered too far left for me and I was like puzzled. Overall, this book read like a series of Black Mirror and I would love to see these stories brought to life. If you are looking a book to take you out of your element in a good, maybe bad way. Pick this one up.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    This was a fun, satirical short story collection about some serious topics. One of the NBA 5 under 35 selections this year.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anna H.

    3.5, rounded up because there were a few 5-star stories in there.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Traci at The Stacks

    Ashes-Brenyah is about as creative as they come. Each of these stories is imaginative and the writing is strong. Some really landed some didn’t.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    From what I’d read about this book, I thought I’d love it. But I ended up not getting very much out of the stories. Ten of the 12 are told in the first person, and in most cases you get the point after one or two pages and the remaining pages are like a puddle of treacle to crawl through. I think I would have enjoyed coming across one of Adjei-Brenyah’s stories in an anthology – the opener, “The Finkelstein 5,” was probably my favorite and is a good example of how he takes the comedy/horror thin From what I’d read about this book, I thought I’d love it. But I ended up not getting very much out of the stories. Ten of the 12 are told in the first person, and in most cases you get the point after one or two pages and the remaining pages are like a puddle of treacle to crawl through. I think I would have enjoyed coming across one of Adjei-Brenyah’s stories in an anthology – the opener, “The Finkelstein 5,” was probably my favorite and is a good example of how he takes the comedy/horror thing right over the top – but many of the others did not resonate with me, or simply felt like more of the same. Read this if you truly loved Paul Beatty’s The Sellout.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andre

    A first-rate story collection with a little bit of magical realism, weirdness, strangeness, wit, hard truths, racial injustice and a dash of retail shopping, which gives the book its title. Friday Black is what we know as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that ushers in the Christmas shopping season. In the story, Friday Black, a clothing store in the mall is gearing up for the shopping frenzy that can be deadly and in the past Friday Blacks it has been literally fatal. “Last year, the F A first-rate story collection with a little bit of magical realism, weirdness, strangeness, wit, hard truths, racial injustice and a dash of retail shopping, which gives the book its title. Friday Black is what we know as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that ushers in the Christmas shopping season. In the story, Friday Black, a clothing store in the mall is gearing up for the shopping frenzy that can be deadly and in the past Friday Blacks it has been literally fatal. “Last year, the Friday Black took 129 people. ‘Black Friday is a special case; we are still a hub of customer care and interpersonal cohesiveness,‘ mall management said in a mall-wide memo.” For those who partake in this annual rush to retail, this story is sure to stay with you long after you put down this collection, and may haunt your future quests for Black Friday bargains. Nana Kwame returns to the retail theme with the same characters in the story, How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King and In Retail. Both stories deal with retail at the point of sale and In Retail highlights the stress related to retail work and how one must avoid being Lucy or Lucyed. “Lucy was that girl who jumped from the fourth floor last month on her lunch break.” The Finkelstein Five is the first story in the book and kind of announces to the reader that something special is in store. A strong story that easily fits in today’s America with the focus on injustice and the resulting helplessness that may lead to extreme forms of retribution as displayed here in this tale. In Zimmer Land we experience a racial amusement park where patrons can live out their ‘I feared for my life’ fantasies for a small fee. These stories, for lack of a better word are highlights for me, but the other entries are also spotlight worthy and the entire story collection indicates with clarity Nana Kwame is inventive, creative, and talented and a voice that readers will look to hear from again and again. Thanks to Mariner Books and Edelweiss for an advanced DRC. Book drops on Oct. 23, 2018.

  29. 4 out of 5

    ns510

    “People say “sell your soul” like it’s easy. But your soul is yours and it’s not for sale. Even if you try, it’ll still be there, waiting for you to remember it.” First volume of short stories for the year and I’m off to a roaring start! What an electrifying collection of stories. I enjoyed some more than others, as is usually the case with story collections, but each one of these were told with verve and ferocity. Reading the stories felt like you were dangled over the edge, being careful not to “People say “sell your soul” like it’s easy. But your soul is yours and it’s not for sale. Even if you try, it’ll still be there, waiting for you to remember it.” First volume of short stories for the year and I’m off to a roaring start! What an electrifying collection of stories. I enjoyed some more than others, as is usually the case with story collections, but each one of these were told with verve and ferocity. Reading the stories felt like you were dangled over the edge, being careful not to fall on the knife that’s a hairs breadth away from your back. Or like you were living in endless Black Mirror episodes. Dealing with a myriad of topics lived by today’s America such as racism, gun violence, consumerism etc, these stories were uncomfortable, original, full of truth and rage. A unique, compelling voice that demands you to pay attention. How else would we force change? Listen to Roxane Gay and ‘READ THIS BOOK’! 📖

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    This book, a kind of speculative fiction about a decaying America, in terms of race, yes, but also families, consumerism, war, etc. was fun. I’m going to date myself as a one hundred and twenty year old here, but when I was a kid, I used to listen to very old reruns of 1950’s radio shows late at night with all of the insomniac seniors and X Minus One was a sci-fi one that had the same tone and pace as these stories for me, which made me almost nostalgic. I think some of the storylines were truly This book, a kind of speculative fiction about a decaying America, in terms of race, yes, but also families, consumerism, war, etc. was fun. I’m going to date myself as a one hundred and twenty year old here, but when I was a kid, I used to listen to very old reruns of 1950’s radio shows late at night with all of the insomniac seniors and X Minus One was a sci-fi one that had the same tone and pace as these stories for me, which made me almost nostalgic. I think some of the storylines were truly inventive, and I thought one or two stories could have been developed into standalone pulpy sci-fi novels of the old school variety, and I would be there for that. There were things I took issue with in the book too. Some of the stories were less well thought out then others and I feel should have been cut from the collection entirely. I found some of the stories to be provocative without being thought provoking, or sensationalist but not sensational (I’m thinking of the abortion story in particular). Sometimes I found the moralizing in the stories (the title story and the second one about the same topic especially) to be a bit heavy handed. I think the writing itself would either carry or hinder the story for you, depending on whether or not you were there for the bizarre campiness of the book itself. In the end, I was on board with it. My favourite stories were definitely the ones that were most developed and involved vastly changed and dystopic futures. I think if you’re going to go in this direction, you might as well transport the reader completely. I know that others disliked those stories the most for the same reasons. I think this was a polarizing book. Thanks Net Galley for the ARC, opinions are my own.

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