Erasure Background

Erasure Background

Erasure, published in 2001 and winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award 2002, became Percival Everett’s most universally acclaimed novel to date. The story of an African-American writer named Thelonius Ellison who is a critical darling without much of an actual readership was based in part on Everett’s own difficulties in getting his books marketed beyond a limited African-American audience. At the heart of Ellison’s difficulties is the inherent racism of white publishers who don’t know how to market any book by a black author that isn’t about so-called black themes and stories.

In response, Ellison decides to write an all-out parody of the black experience that these publishers can relate to. He is horrified when what should have been recognized as absurd satire instead become a literary sensation that will become a standard for school curricula thirty years from now. Almost verging into the realm of irony is the extent to which Erasure itself was lauded upon release, transforming its author into more of a literary heavyweight. In fact, the book has become the focus of an ever-increasing output of academic papers and scholarly papers.

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