The White Boy Shuffle Background

The White Boy Shuffle Background

A Bildungsroman (coming of age) story about a black boy growing up in America, The White Boy Shuffle is the debut novel of American author and poet Paul Beatty. Published in 1996, the book is acclaimed for its insight into African-American culture in America, especially in relation to white communities.

The protagonist of The White Boy Shuffle is Gunnar Kaufman, who as the audience learns in the prologue, is a prolific and largely successful writer whose book has sold over 126 million copies. The novel then takes the reader into Gunnar's memories, back to when he was a young boy, then a teenager, searching for his identity in a world that seemed to reject him at every turn. Gunnar is a teen who has respect in his mainly black neighborhood for his skills on the basketball court. However he cannot dance, and his friends dub his awkward movements as "the White Boy shuffle", thus earning the book its name. The title makes sense; it represents Gunnar's inability to mesh completely with either the black or the white community.

The White Boy Shuffle was extremely well-received by critics, who praised it for its profound look into race and culture through the lens of a teenage boy. The novel contains themes of racism, prejudice, and stereotypes, not just from the white community, but from Gunnar's own peers as well.

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