I Am Not Sidney Poitier
by Percival Everett
Graywolf Press, 2009
270 pages / $16.00 Buy from Graywolf Press
Adjectives frequently used to describe Percival Everett include “intelligent” and “hilarious,” and are also apt descriptors for his seventeenth (!) novel, I Am Not Sidney Poitier. It is difficult to imagine a funnier book dealing with issues of race and identity, or a more sophisticated comic romp. The humor (and confusion) begins with the title, which refers to the novel’s main character, literally named Not Sidney Poitier. The “ill-starred fruit of a hysterical pregnancy” that lasts two years, Not Sidney is an orphan raised by Ted Turner who comes to resemble the actor Sidney Poitier. The unexpected death of Not Sidney’s mother leaves him with incredible wealth in the form of shares in the Turner Broadcasting Corp.
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August 4th, 2011 / 12:04 pm
This is a speech worthy of Father Mapple, given at a college by television actor Bill Cosby in Percival Everett’s new novel, I Am Not Sidney Poitier—one of the funniest books I have read in quite a while. I’ll never sell Pudding Pops for the white man. Check this book out. It’s genius.
You men think I’m going to take it easy on you. You think because you’re in college and sitting here in khakis and loafers that I’m all right with you. You think that because you’re not bopping your heads to rap music while sitting here that I’m going to embrace you. You’re wrong. You’re all pathetic. You’re pathetic until you’re not pathetic, until you do something strong and good and not until you do that. You think because you probably won’t be clad in an orange jumpsuit for stealing a piece of pound cake that I feel all warm and fuzzy about you. I sell Pudding Pops for the white man. I don’t know why I’m saying that, but I am. I make myself sick, but the white man is not to blame. He didn’t put the gun in the hands of the black kid down in juvenile hall. No, his missing father put it there. Pound cake. I’m on television. Black girls have babies by three or four fathers and why? Pudding Pops! That’s what I’m saying. Some of you are probably wondering how I can stand up here, call me high and mighty, talking about how I can stand here when I’m being sued for having babies with a woman other than my wife. Well, hell, I can afford to have babies. Pudding Pops! If you don’t know who your children’s friends are, then you’re not doing your job…I kissed a Japanese woman on screen in nineteen sixty-six and managed not to have a baby with her. I want to thank you for having me here today, and I want you to know that I will be more than happy to sign copies of my book, Fatherhood, which is on sale just outside at an attractive discount. Believe me, you need to read it. Thank you.