Hari Kunzru's compulsively readable fifth novel is as much an examination of loss and guilt as it is an unflinching indictment of white American power
In these days of thin skins, on-simmer outrage and ever-deepening parochialism, cultural appropriation is a tricky business worldwide. Are cornrows the sole birthright of Africans? What about dreadlocks? Is the Muslim woman sporting a bindi a boundary-bashing free-thinker or a misguided Hindu-wannabe? Is the white man who loves jazz—as played by Ryan Gosling in top Oscars contender La La Land—a true admirer or a vile usurper of a grand black tradition? Did Elvis Presley’s rendition of Hound Dog obliterate the original black artiste, or rescue the song from oblivion?