Chain Gang All Stars: A Novel (Hardcover)
The explosive, hotly-anticipated debut novel from the New York Times-bestselling author of Friday Black, about two top women gladiators fighting for their freedom within a depraved private prison system not so far-removed from America’s own.
Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly-popular, highly-controversial, profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators and prisoners are competing for the ultimate prize: their freedom.
In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death-matches for packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates. Thurwar and Staxxx, both teammates and lovers, are the fan favorites. And if all goes well, Thurwar will be free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares to leave her fellow Links, she considers how she might help preserve their humanity, in defiance of these so-called games, but CAPE’s corporate owners will stop at nothing to protect their status quo and the obstacles they lay in Thurwar’s path have devastating consequences.
Moving from the Links in the field to the protestors to the CAPE employees and beyond, Chain-Gang All-Stars is a kaleidoscopic, excoriating look at the American prison system’s unholy alliance of systemic racism, unchecked capitalism, and mass incarceration, and a clear-eyed reckoning with what freedom in this country really means from a “new and necessary American voice” (Tommy Orange, The New York Times Book Review).
About the Author
NANA KWAME ADJEI-BRENYAH is the New York Times-bestselling author of Friday Black. His work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. He was a National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honoree, the winner of the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and the Saroyan Prize, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award for Best First Book, along with many other honors. Raised in Spring Valley, New York, he now lives in the Bronx.
Praise for Chain-Gang All-Stars
“In a narrative world where the real is growingly more unbelievable than the make believe, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Chain-Gang All-Stars is an uncanny, singular feat of literature. I’ve never read satire so bruising, so brolic, so tender and really, so pitch-perfect. It’s nuts brilliant. Just read it!”
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir
Praise for Friday Black
“A new and necessary American voice…In Friday Black, the dystopian future Adjei-Brenyah depicts—like all great dystopian fiction—is bleakly futuristic only on its surface. At its center, each story—sharp as a knife—points to right now.”
—Tommy Orange, The New York Times Book Review
“Impressive . . . There's enormous talent on display in Friday Black.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“A pleasure to be in the company of a new voice as exciting as this.”
“Surreal, sobering, and tender all at once.”
“Fearless . . . [A] major literary debut.”
"I can't wait to see all of the work he does from here."
—Yaa Gyasi, on The Today Show
"I can't remember the last book that has moved, unsettled, inspired me the way Friday Black did...These are stories in which the satirical humor cuts as deep as its gritty violence."
—Lauren Christensen, The New York Times
"Vivid, original...Adjei-Brenyah presents America in all its racism, weirdness and abject consumerism."
"Friday Black is as intellectually hefty as fiction can get...[Adjei-Brenyah's] work is fiercely, spikily funny...The energy in his fiction is wild, barely controllable yet perfectly controlled...[He] fits big emotion, big action, and big thought into each story."
"Inventive and stirring...Ingenious...So daring and mind-bending that you haven't a clue where he's going to take you."
—Bernardine Evaristo, The Guardian