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
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
The New York Times - Dwight GarnerIt'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.
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“I'm usually very slow to come around to things. It took me two years to 'feel' Wu Tang's first album, even longer to appreciate Basquiat…but I couldn't believe Fran Ross's hilarious 1974 novel Oreo hadn't been on my cultural radar.”
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.
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