Oreo

Oreo

4.3 3
by Fran Ross
     
 

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This uproariously funny satire about relations between African Americans and Jews is as fresh and outrageous today as when it was first published in 1974.

Born to a Jewish father and black mother who divorce before she is two, Oreo grows up in Philadelphia with her maternal grandparents while her mother tours with a theatrical troupe. Soon after puberty,

Overview

This uproariously funny satire about relations between African Americans and Jews is as fresh and outrageous today as when it was first published in 1974.

Born to a Jewish father and black mother who divorce before she is two, Oreo grows up in Philadelphia with her maternal grandparents while her mother tours with a theatrical troupe. Soon after puberty, Oreo heads for New York with a pack on her back to search for her father; but in the big city she discovers that there are dozens of Sam Schwartzes in the phone book, and Oreo's mission turns into a wickedly humorous picaresque quest. The ambitious and playful narrative challenges accepted notions of race, ethnicity, culture, and even the novelistic form itself.

Fran Ross has a witty way with words-Yiddish, black dialect, puns-and she strews them exuberantly throughout her episodic story, along with lists, tables, drawings, equations, menus ('Gefüllte Melonen') and Q-and-A exams (Publishers Weekly).

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Dwight Garner
It's interesting to imagine an alternative history of African-American fiction in which this wild, satirical and pathbreaking feminist picaresque caught the ride it deserved in the culture. Today it would be where it belongs, up among the 20th century's lemony comic classics, novels that range from Lucky Jim and Cold Comfort Farm to Catch-22 and A Confederacy of Dunces…in Oreo Ms. Ross is simply flat-out fearless and funny and sexy and sublime…Her throwaway lines have more zing than most comic writers' studied arias…Oreo is acid social criticism, potent because it is lightly worn…Oreo has snap and whimsy to burn. It's a nonstop outbound flight to a certain kind of readerly bliss.
Vanity Fair
“Hilarious, touching and a future classic.”
John Warner - Chicago Tribune
“Think: Thomas Pynchon meets Don Quixote, mixed with a crack joke crafter. I'm not sure I've ever admired a book's inventiveness and soul more.”
Amanda Sarasien - The Literary Review
“The novel will endure, greeting each new generation of readers with its continuing relevance.”
Essence Magazine
“Hilariously offbeat.”
Bookforum
“This is a novel that refuses to be categorized or tamed in any way.”
Dwight Garner - The New York Times
“This novel has wings.”
Stephen Sparks - LitHub
“Uproariously funny…criminally neglected.”
Mat Johnson - NPR Books
“Oreo is one of the funniest books I've ever read. To convey Oreo's humor effectively, I would have to use the comedic graphs, menus, and quizzes Ross uses in the novel. So instead, I just settle for, 'You have to read this.'”
Harryette Mullen
“With its mix of vernacular dialects, bilingual and ethnic humor, inside jokes, neologisms, verbal quirks, and linguistic oddities, Ross's novel dazzles…”
Paul Beatty - The New York Times
“It took me two years to "feel" Wu Tang's first album, even longer to appreciate Basquiat, and I still don't get all the fuss over Duke Ellington and Frank Lloyd Wright. But I couldn't believe Oreo hadn't been on my cultural radar.”
From the Publisher
"Fran Ross has a witty way with words-Yiddish, black dialect, puns-and she strews them exuberantly throughout her episodic story, along with lists, tables, drawings, equations, menus ('Gefuellte Melonen') and Q-and-A exams." —Publishers Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2015-04-29
A biracial girl brought up by her black grandparents sets off on a quest to find her long-lost Jewish father in Ross' brilliant and biting satire. Helen "Honeychile" Clark and Samuel Schwartz met, married (over the mutual disapproval of their parents), and divorced before their daughter Oreo's second birthday. With Helen, a pianist, away on perpetual tour and Samuel generally absent, Oreo (real name: Christine) and her brother, Jimmie C. (real name: Moishe), are raised by their maternal grandparents in Philadelphia. But while Oreo's father has disappeared almost entirely from his daughter's life ("he's a schmuck," Helen explains, when Oreo asks), he's left behind one thing: a note, delivered to Helen and intended for the future Christine. When she "is old enough to decipher the clues written on this piece of paper," he says, "send her to me and I will reveal to her the secret of her birth." And so, after a precocious childhood, during which she's steeped in language—Yiddish from her grandfather (a committed anti-Semite, his business is selling outrageously overpriced mail-order schlock to Jews); English from her tutor, a "renowned linguist and blood donor"; and "Louise-ese," the distinct dialect of her grandmother, to name a few—Oreo leaves home, lunch packed, to embark upon her mission: find her father, learn the secret. Transforming the myth of Theseus and the Labyrinth into a feminist picaresque, Ross sends Oreo into the heart of New York City, where, in a series of absurd, unsettling, and hilarious encounters—no one is safe from Ross' razor-sharp deconstruction—she inches ever closer to her own origin story. Oreo's identity is always in flux, as she performs various personas to suit her situations, switching between registers with superhuman skill. First published in 1974 and now reissued in paperback, Ross' novel, with its Joycean language games and keen social critique, is as playful as it is profound. Criminally overlooked. A knockout.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780914870005
Publisher:
Greyfalcon House
Publication date:
11/28/1974
Pages:
212

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Fran Ross (1935–1985) grew up in Philadelphia. She wrote Oreo while working as a proofreader and journalist, and then moved to Los Angeles to write for Richard Pryor.

Danzy Senna is the author of several books, including the award-winning novel Caucasia.

Harryette Mullen, a professor of English at UCLA, is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Recyclopedia, which won a PEN Beyond Margins Award

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Oreo 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 3 reviews.
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