For the past few lessons, we have been discussing The White Boy Shuffle. For readers, the book is so compelling because of the combination of wit, parody, and varying racial issues addressed. The narrator Gunnar is quite frank, and offers an interesting perspective on growing up in California as an African-American athlete and poet. While reading the book, I wondered a lot about the author, Paul Beatty, and how Gunnar’s life does or doesn’t mimic his own.
After a quick Google search, I learned some immediate facts about Beatty that draw obvious connections between him and his protagonist. Beatty was born in Los Angeles in 1962. While Gunnar is a bit younger than Beatty, he also grew up in LA (Santa Monica area). The regions both of them grew up in were predominantly white and wealthy, although Beatty has given interviews in which he addresses the increasing diversity and influx of more racial groups into these neighborhoods. He attended high school at El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, California. Gunnar’s high school, El Campesino Real in the Valley, sounds very similar to this, which must be intentional. I imagine that Beatty used a lot of his own experiences to shape Gunnar’s, though Beatty does explicitly state that he never played sports. Each boy would have had a different experience growing up, and I think it is an important takeaway from the book that even though Beatty and Gunnar were both black boys in a predominantly white setting, they each had unique experiences and perspectives.
In the book, there are many stereotypes; the title The White Boy Shuffle even calls out a well known stereotype. I think it is important to remember that these notions and ideas people have about members of a different race are grounded in nothing but assumption. Note that Beatty and Gunnar probably would be stereotyped similarly, but they are actually very different and lead two distinctive lives.