Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 243
Erasure by Percival Everett, published in 2001, centers on Thelonious Ellison, a writer who is going through a rough patch in his career and has become cynical about the publishing industry's pigeonholing of African American writers. He criticizes his peers for exploiting African American stereotypes in order to bait critics and receive accolades.
Thelonious writes a novella that parodies these types of works by creating a character that possesses many of negative stereotypes assumed to be associated with inner-city black males. The fact that this parody novel wins Thelonious critical acclaim and commercial success reinforces his cynicism and proves that his criticisms of the niche genre are correct.
Besides Everett's critique on the contemporary publishing industry, Erasure is also about Thelonious's own experiences in the inner-city neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. When he returns to his native city, Thelonious realizes that his parody novella is a reflection of his youth and of experiences that he tried to escape from as an adult with the encouragement of his late father.
His journey as a writer—particularly in writing his parody novella—is parallel to his journey toward the truth about his family, his identity, and his place in society. When Thelonious discovers that he was conceived because of his father's failed affair during the Korean War, he realizes that he has to fight for his place in the world just as he, as a writer, has to fight for his place in the publishing industry.