The Last White Man: A Novel

by Mohsin Hamid

Hardcover, 2022

Call number




Riverhead Books (2022), 192 pages


Fiction. Literature. HTML:A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE SUMMER BY TIME, ELLE, USA TODAY, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY AND MORE â??Perhaps Hamidâ??s most remarkable work yet â?¦ an extraordinary vision of human possibility.â?ť â??Ayad Akhtar, author of Homeland Elegies â??Searing, exhilarating â?¦ reimagines Kafkaâ??s iconic The Metamorphosis for our racially charged era.â?ť Hamilton Cain, Oprah Daily From the New York Times-bestselling author of Exit West, a story of love, loss, and rediscovery in a time of unsettling change. One morning, a man wakes up to find himself transformed. Overnight, Andersâ??s skin has turned dark, and the reflection in the mirror seems a stranger to him. At first he shares his secret only with Oona, an old friend turned new lover. Soon, reports of similar events begin to surface. Across the land, people are awakening in new incarnations, uncertain how their neighbors, friends, and family will greet them.Some see the transformations as the long-dreaded overturning of the established order that must be resisted to a bitter end. In many, like Andersâ??s father and Oonaâ??s mother, a sense of profound loss and unease wars with profound love. As the bond between Anders and Oona deepens, change takes on a different shading: a chance at a kind of rebirthâ??an opportunity to see ourselves, face to face, anew.   In Mohsin Hamidâ??s â??lyrical and urgentâ?ť prose (O Magazine), The Last White Man powerfully uplifts our capacity for empathy and the transcenden… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member reader1009
fiction - racial bias becomes everything to inhabitants of unnamed city/country where, one by one the mostly white population wake up with Black skin ( and presumably Black hair).

Interesting premise, but I doubt I'll remember much else. Fortunately this one was much shorter than Exit West.
LibraryThing member Hccpsk
Mohsin’s Hamid’s The Last White Man is a book with a very interesting premise written in an interesting way that somehow manages to not be very interesting. Anders wakes one morning to find his skin turned from white to brown. After figuring out how to navigate this new normal, it turns out
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that the same thing is happening all over the city he lives in. Hamid explores the change through Anders, his girlfriend, Oona, and their parents with a semi-stream-of-consciousness style that translates into very long sentences that are difficult to navigate. The saving grace of The Last White Man — it is short.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
The Last White Man, Mohsin Hamid, author and narrator
Mohsin Hamid has written a short novel about race and its place in our world When Anders wakes up one morning to what he, at first, perceives is a nightmare, he soon realizes that although he went to sleep as a white man, he has now awakened as a
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man of color. He is now forced to live in a different reality. His comfort zone of whiteness is gone. What problems will he endure? Will he be able to have the same lifestyle? Has he changed in any other way? Soon he will discover subtle changes in his personality, but at first, he calls in sick to his job as a trainer and finds he is afraid to go out. When he does venture out, he wonders if anyone is looking at him in an accusatory manner. It seems he is not recognized in his regular haunts. He discovers that some people no longer seem to notice him. He seems invisible to some people or like a shadow, they try to avoid. He notices people he previously took for granted or ignored. The janitor suddenly looms large on his landscape.
Anders has a girlfriend. At first, Oona, a yoga teacher, is very uncomfortable with Anders and begins to avoid him, but soon, it becomes apparent that this change of color in white people is something of a pandemic and is spreading. An entire town is suffering from the same change in skin color. Oona begins to grow more and more accustomed to Anders as a changed man. She sees him as more relaxed, and she too grows more relaxed. They both grow calmer and more accepting of each other, of their family and even of strangers. Soon, she too, is living in a dark-skinned body. She and Anders grow closer and more compatible. They seem to be less threatened and more accepting of each other as more and more people turn dark skinned. They discover that they often treated people without respect before this change. They discover that they are a bit wiser and enjoy each other and their lives far more as they live in these new bodies.
At first, there is some fear and some violence, all around them. There are attacks against those who have darkened, but soon everything calms down and a kind of peace descends. With everyone of one color, everyone is getting along far better. Life seems enjoyable as they take time to enjoy each other’s company without judgment. Without whiteness and its attendant privileges, there are fewer disagreements, fewer moments of self righteous indignation. Previously, one group of people, those with white skin, thought they had the one right way. Did they? Was the color simply a superficial descriptor?
Is life better now or was it better before, and if it was better, was it better because of whiteness or because of the privileges and power whiteness bestowed? If it is better without whiteness, is it because people feel less threatened? Do people become aware of the way one group took advantage of another? When everyone is the same, do they discover the true value of each other?
Let’s suppose that the tables were turned and reverse the situation. What if everyone turned white? Would we get the same result? Would there be less stress or more stress with the added competition? Would we all simply begin to have the same perceived privileges or had we really all had the same privileges all along, if only all we had all made the same effort to access them? Under which scenario would the world advance more and achieve more? Would both scenarios produce the same result? Is homogeneity better than heterogeneity? Is race the only issue that causes disharmony? What about economic advantages? What about intellectual advantages? They are not necessarily the result of race, but rather of ambition and ability, regardless of race.
When one group thinks they have the one right way and demand unanimity and uniformity, is that a successful approach for a community? Are different opinions necessary for creativity and advancement? Can a society survive if one political party silences the other? Does this novel support group think? Which scenario would achieve more unity, changing everyone to white or to black or does the choice of color matter? Is uniformity demanded in all situations for success, or is it an invitation to failure due to a lack of stimulation.
The author’s writing style wastes no words. In brief, but very clear and lucid sentences, he drives his point home about discrimination and the foolishness it is based upon.
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LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
This was a well received book that fell short on its promise. Anders wakes up and discovers that he is no longer a white man but instead is a man of color. The author goes through his feelings and uses this premise to explore how we view people through their physical traits and especially race.
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Slowly more and more white people become colored and we see the transition impacts on peoples attitudes. Although the concept is good, Hamid fails to really say anything or explore the issues in depth. The book also suffers from very long sentence structure which makes it move slowly. It was okay for its 180 pages but had it been longer, I doubt if I could have finished it. Worth a read for the issues it explores.
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LibraryThing member Castlelass
Set in the US, this is a surrealistic novel about Anders, initially a light-skinned man, who turns brown. He hides his body from everyone except his girlfriend, Oona, who is grieving the loss of her brother and caregiving for her mother. Gradually more people experience the same change, forcing an
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examination of their prejudices. By extension, this construct challenges readers to confront their own views of race. It focuses on the two protagonists, their parents, and their grief (brother’s death and the father dying of cancer).

Hamid tries to tackle many topics at once – relationships, grief, loss, memory, racism, reactionary violence, online obsessions (sometimes all in the same sentence). It does not explore any of them in depth. For me, the whole thing didn’t quite gel. The external events and the (lackluster) characters remain at a distance. I question the choice to focus on the relationship between Oona and Anders at the expense of addressing the real issues underlying racism.

I think the intent is positive – to help us envision a society where we can all get along and call attention to the fact that the entire human race, if traced back far enough, is genetically connected. Unfortunately, I found it too simplistic and not particularly well-developed.

“[M]aybe the fact that Anders no longer looked like Anders allowed her [Oona] to see her relationship with him in another way, or maybe the fact that Anders remained Anders regardless of what he looked like allowed her to see the Anders in him more clearly.”
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LibraryThing member steve02476
A strange book, written in maybe a verbal way, I felt the author was speaking rather than writing. Liked it to start with, got a little impatient after a while, but then started liking it again as I got used to the writing. The story had an intriguing idea (people with light skin turning dark
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instead) but it wasn’t really developed all that much, and actually there wasn’t all that much story. But after a while the book kind of seemed like spoken poetry and I just let it flow and enjoyed it.

Have read some other of his books and enjoyed them, but this was pretty different.
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LibraryThing member christinejoseph
R April 2023. Unusual book, current day author style talking not writing ,wakes one morning Andre black not white feels like he has been robbed afraid to go out….eventually all change and his dying father who never rejects him dies white last man…his girlfriend wife all change. Background for
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author a Muslim after 9/11 felt he was changed and looked at differenty suspiciously .
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LibraryThing member annbury
What if all the white people turned brown? In Mohsin Hamid's "The Last White Man", that's what they do, and what happens is a compelling story -- I listened to it in one hearing. The characters are fully realized and sympathetic in their ordinariness, the social ramifications are well thought out,
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and the writing is vivid. Most engaging, perhaps, is the optimistic bias Hamid's story takes as it comes to an end, offering hope of a new and more accepting society.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
A white man wakes up one morning to discover that he has turned Black. Soon, this starts happening to other people, too, until finally all the white people are Black, except for the narrator's father. Naturally, this has major implications for all of society and for racism. The book talks about
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those major implications, but largely focuses on personal relationships between people, such as the narrator and his father, the narrator and his girlfriend, his girlfriend and her mother.

It's an interesting thought experiment, but it's hard for such a small book to capture all of the simply enormous things that would happen if white people suddenly changed color, and at times it felt to me like the book lacked in imagination.

I listened to the audiobook, which is read by the author. His reading is pretty bland, and emphasizes the choppiness of his sentences in a way that I found distracting. I might have had a higher opinion of this book if I had read it instead of listening to it.
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