Archy Stallings, funk bassist, vinyl expert, and unwilling heir to his father’s kung-fu blaxploitation film legacy, is in crisis. Brokeland Records, his Oakland record store and livelihood, is truly broke. His friendship with his partner, Nat Jaffe, is straining as the money drains away. An estranged teenage son appears out of nowhere and Archy’s pregnant wife, Gwen, fed up with his antics, moves into the dojo down the street.
Following his award-winning novel, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon once again transports readers to a singular setting, this one filled with 1970s blaxploitation references and nods to jazz musicians. Brokeland Records is situated in rough-edged black Oakland near the border of crunchy, wealthy, white Berkeley, California. The racial divide manifests itself geographically as well as in the relationship between black and white characters Archy and Nat. Can the two of them reconcile as fellow worshippers in their temple of vinyl? Or will their differences overtake their common dream?