50 pages 1 hour read

Colson Whitehead

Harlem Shuffle

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2021

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Part 1, Chapters 1-5Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “The Truck | 1959”

Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary

In June 1959, an African American furniture salesman named Raymond Carney drives his truck around New York City. He visits a white radio repairman named Aronowitz and collects a repaired television that he hopes to sell. He also leaves behind a set of stereos that he hopes Aronowitz can sell on his behalf.

Afterward, Ray visits the apartment of a dead woman and purchases a sofa and an armchair from her daughter, Ruby Brown. Ray and Ruby attended the same high school and Ray remembers his schooldays. He specifically recalls dealing with a bully named Oliver Handy by hitting him in the face with an iron pipe, following the advice of his father, Mike Carney. A petty thief, Mike was shot by police while in the act of stealing a bottle of cough syrup from a pharmacy. Inspired by these incidents to be a better person, Ray dedicated his life to becoming a respectable businessman. Ray and Ruby reminisce about their youth, and Ray is worried that she will mention his father. However, Ruby says nothing.

Carney’s Furniture is moderately successful, even though the store’s history seems to be “cursed” (17). Ray’s dependable but dim-witted assistant Rusty complains about the lack of customers.

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