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Reading Reflection of The Finkelstein 5 by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

The Finkelstein Five is a short story by Nana Kwame Adjei Brenyah, first published in a book of his short stories, Friday Black, in October 2018. It spotlights angry youths protesting the brutal murder of five black children, decapitated with a chainsaw by a middle-aged white man whose gets acquitted by a jury. The protagonist, Emmanuel,  has learned to project a non-threatening persona, to “dial down his blackness”, in order to survive in society This shockingly violent satire explores racism in the United States that has resulted in the deaths of innocent unarmed Black Americans at the hands of white people while the justice system turns a blind eye on the victims and refuses to punish the perpetrators.

Mr. Adjei-Brenyah uses many historical and situational references in his short story. The author may have researched the deaths of deaths of Trayvon Martin (2/26/2012), Eric Garner (7/17/2014), and Freddie Gray (4/19/2015) to reveal the bias against the hooded black figure. He has created a moralist satire that forces the reader to contemplate the inequities of race in the United States and how we rationalize injustice in the name of freedom and protection.

When Emmanuel, “pulled out a long abandoned black hoodie…”[1] , the author may be directly referencing the black hoodie worn by Trayvon Martin, a Miami high school student who was murdered dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt, while purchasing a bag of Skittles and a bottle of juice. Even President Barack Obama addressed Martin’s shooting saying at the White House, “When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this.”[2]

Additionally, the satirical writing of Flannery O’Connor, especially A Good Man is Hard to Find, may have influenced Adjei-Brenyah, especially when he takes the unexpected violence to the extreme. He uses cultural and historical references when the Namers, a group of Blacks ritualistically repeat the name of one of the five children, while committing an act of extreme violence. The act of naming is significant in many African cultures and the repetition of the dead children’s names is at once a talisman and a way to pay respect to the innocent dead. [3]

Mr. Adjei-Brenyah uses many historical and cultural refences beautifully, and is something I would like to attempt in my own short story writing. 


[1] Adjei-Brenyah, Nana Kwame. The Finkelstein 5, Mariner Books 2018, page 3

[2] https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/07/19/remarks-president-trayvon-martin July 19, 2013

[3] https://http://www.shakespeareanrag.com/31-days-of-stories-2020-day-1-the-finkelstein-5-by-nana-kwame-adjei-brenyah

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