How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

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“As I’ve reflected back on both, I realize that my neighborhood was just like The Wire. We had the drug dealing, the police brutality, the murders. Well, it was almost a perfect match. We had everything The Wire had except for the universal critical acclaim and the undying love of white people who saw it.”

I first heard about How to Be Black in a Book Riot post (which seems to be where I find a lot of my book recommendations lately.) I wrote down the name, and then later screwing around on Oyster, saw that it was available! Opened it to take a peek, and ended up reading almost the entire introduction out loud to the honeyman while we waited for our friends to come over.

How to Be Black is not REALLY a how-to guide – it’s kind of a memoir, kind of a satire, very tongue-in-cheek book about what it’s like growing up black, and being black in America. Baratunde Thurston recounts a lot of his own experiences, but also calls upon his so-called Black Panel of contributors to chime in on important issues such as “When Did You First Realize You Were Black?” and “Can You Swim?”. The Black Panel is a great group of black men and black women, and one white guy – just to mix things up a bit.

Were many parts of this laugh-out-loud hysterical? Yes. I cracked up at him referring to Denzel Washington as the “National Black Friend”. But underneath the humor and satire were a lot of critical points about race, privilege, and the dynamics of the world we live in. I basically want to type out all of my favorite passages and quotes here, but I won’t. Partly because I don’t have nearly the time for that, and partly because I don’t want to rob you of the joy (and sometimes the pain) of reading all the best parts yourself.

I think this book is perfect for all of those white people who have reached out to touch a black person’s hair, or who wonder why we don’t have a White History Month. If you know one of these people, shake your head at them and hand them this. You’ll be doing them a favor. And it’s perfect timing – the enhanced Kindle edition is on sale for $1.99 right now. I read this on Oyster, but when I saw it was on sale on Kindle too I grabbed it. I look forward to perusing it again, and lending it out to some people. Humor! Deep thoughts! Race! Social commentary! You definitely want to read it.

Sarah Says: 4.5 stars

 

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3 comments

  1. Yeah, I remember thinking this was was a pretty enjoyable book, but substantive as well. There was a hilarious footnote about Herman Cain that comes to mind as well, even though that footnote will probably not age well.

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  2. I love love loooove this book. This is definitely one of the books that I’ll go back and re-read a chapter here and there, whenever I’m finished with whatever I was previously reading.

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