Oreo is raised by her maternal grandparents in Philadelphia. Her black mother tours with a theatrical troupe, and her Jewish deadbeat dad disappeared when she was an infant, leaving behind a mysterious note that triggers her quest to find him. What ensues is a playful, modernized parody of the classical odyssey of Theseus with a feminist twist, immersed in seventies pop culture, and mixing standard English, black vernacular, and Yiddish with wisecracking aplomb. Oreo, our young hero, navigates the labyrinth of sound studios and brothels and subway tunnels in Manhattan, seeking to claim her birthright while unwittingly experiencing and triggering a mythic journey of self-discovery like no other.
I wish that more writers writing today would be as outrageous, irreverent, and just flat-out funny about race as Fran Ross was in Oreo almost fifty years ago.
—Susan Choi, Bookforum
Oreo buzzes with whip-smart comic ferocity. The book is just goddamn funny.
—Marlon James, The Guardian
Setting out from her black household in Philadelphia to find her deadbeat Jewish father in New York, [Oreo] proceeds through one of the funniest journeys ever, amid a whirlwind of wisecracks in a churning mix of Yiddish, black vernacular, and every sort of English.
—Danielle Dutton, The Guardian
What a rollicking little masterpiece this book is, truly one of the most delightful, hilarious, intelligent novels I’ve stumbled across in recent years, a wholly original work written in a wonderful mashed-up language that mixes high academic prose, black slang and Yiddish to great effect. I must have laughed out loud a hundred times, and it’s a short book, just over 200 pages, which averages out to one booming gut-laugh every other page.
—Paul Auster, The New York Times
The brilliant, hilarious, multilingual, brash, tender, bawdy, and unsentimental voice of Ross’s heroine equals the rare and outrageous voice of Ross herself.
—Women’s Review of Books
Readers who enjoy play-on-words and post-modern novels will love this book.
Think: Thomas Pynchon meets Don Quixote, mixed with a crack joke crafter. I’m not sure I’ve ever admired a book’s inventiveness and soul more.
—John Warner, Chicago Tribune
A ground-breaking satire.
—Danielle Deavens, Essence Magazine
Fran Ross’ voice and bravado threads this inexhaustibly inventive first novel. The author, who died at age 50 in 1985, didn’t release another novel. Still, we can delight in the masterpiece that she created that is just as urgent now as was it was then, if not more so.
—Patrik Henry Bass, NY1
Oreo has snap and whimsy to burn. It’s a nonstop outbound flight to a certain kind of readerly bliss. It may have been first published more than 40 years ago, but its time is now.
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
A brilliant and biting satire, a feminist picaresque, absurd, unsettling, and hilarious … Ross’ novel, with its Joycean language games and keen social critique, is as playful as it is profound. Criminally overlooked. A knockout.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
I’m usually very slow to come around to things. It took me two years to ‘feel’ Wu Tang’s first album, even longer to appreciate Basquiat…but I couldn’t believe Fran Ross’s hilarious 1974 novel Oreo hadn’t been on my cultural radar.
—Paul Beatty, The New York Times
With its mix of vernacular dialects, bilingual and ethnic humor, aside jokes, neologisms, verbal quirks, and linguistic oddities, Ross’s novel dazzles…
Oreo is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. To convey Oreo’s humor effectively, I would have to use the comedic graphs, menus, and quizzes Ross uses in the novel. So instead, I just settle for, ‘You have to read this.’