In a recent interview, Adam Mansbach confessed that his publishers originally wanted his novel, Angry Black White Boy, or the Miscegenation of Macon Detornay, to be called American Wigger. Mansbach surmised that his book might have sold a few more copies, but he wasn't "going to be the guy who wrote American Wigger. I don't want to walk out of the house and have people throw shit at me." Such a neologism would have been too flimsy a front for Mansbach's novel anyway, an exercise in race consciousness that scours the clichés of white people's awareness of racial privilege. Angry Black White Boy is set in the golden age of hip hop, during which Black Panther militancy and the experimentalism of A Tribe Called Quest enjoyed a fusion unknown to the genre's iced-out offspring.
The titular Macon is a white kid in Boston whose notions of identity are galvanized by the lightning rod of hip hop culture. While he chooses to define himself in opposition to "paper race tigers" like Elvis Presley or Quentin Tarantino, who shamelessly fleece black culture to their own ends, Macon and his posse of guilty liberals and faux gangstas chart a course of action that demonstrates their own captivity to the status quo. But if you're looking for answers to hardball questions in Mansbach's novel, look elsewhere, as the writer admits he's "resistant to any kind of resolution." Mansbach reads from Angry Black White Boy tonight at 7 at City Lights, 261 Columbus (at Broadway), S.F. Admission is free; call 362-8193 or visit www.citylights.com.
-- Nirmala Nataraj
You like booty, right? Of course you do. At the Talk Like a Pirate Contest, you could win four hundred bucks' worth of booty. Inspired by the folks over at Talklikeapirate.com, men, women, and children (the contest is a G-rated one, arrrr) strut and fret their 30 seconds upon the stage to see who has the most skill in "avast-me-hearty"-slinging. A piratical appearance won't hurt your chances of getting that booty, and here's hoping the judges give extra points for looking like Johnny Depp and using Capt. Jack Sparrow's phrase "But you have heard of me." Talking starts at 11 a.m. at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, 175 Jefferson (at Taylor), S.F. Admission is free; call 771-6188 or visit www.ripleys.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
La Peña's all grown up
The year 1975 was an interesting one around here: The worlds of art, music, politics, and fashion buzzed. It was also the year that a bunch of Chilean expat intellectuals on the run from Pinochet came together in Berkeley to establish a community center.
Chile's loss was the Bay Area's gain, and as La Peña Cultural Center celebrates its 30th anniversary with a month of big events, let us take a moment to consider the place where Cesar Chavez celebrated his 50th birthday. Home to visual art, literary happenings, and lots and lots of music, the center continues as a refuge for "cultural activism for social change." The in-house singing group La Peña Community Chorus performs a program of its traditional nueva cancion songs at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck (at Prince), Berkeley. Admission is $10-15; call (510) 849-2568 or visit www.lapena.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Artists rally to save their home
The story of the 15 creative types at SOMA Artists Studios is a familiar one: After renting the space for more than 16 years, the closely knit group is in danger of being kicked out by a new landlord. In response, they've titled their twice-yearly exhibition "In Suspension," a reference to their uncertain future. The show features collaborative works that also hang in the balance, or, more explicitly, dangle precariously from the ceiling, such as Renee Eaton's 7-foot-long scroll of cave painting-inspired animal drawings that wends its way around the room, and installation artist Sheila Nichols' hanging branches, which reference her series of paintings on display about the destruction of forests. Support the artists from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday (and from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday) at SOMA Artists Studios, 689 Bryant (at Fifth Street), S.F. Admission is free; visit www.floradavis.com.
-- Jane Tunks
The mere mention of folk music sends many of us running and screaming from visions of Bob Dylan wannabes warbling out-of-tune protest songs. But this weekend the San Francisco Free Folk Festival spotlights traditions from around the world, with performances from Doc Small & the Travelling Show and the M'earthtones. Singing workshops can teach you how to yodel like Hank Williams and belt out sea chanteys like a shipwrecked sailor, while those of us who don't dare sing outside the shower can learn to play the spoons, button accordion, or ukulele. The two-day celebration starts at noon both days at Roosevelt Middle School, 460 Arguello (at Geary), S.F. Admission is free; visit www.sffolkfest.org.
-- Jane Tunks