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How to Be Black

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Overview

  • Have you ever been called "too black" or "not black enough"?
  • Have you ever befriended or worked with a black person?
  • Have you ever heard of black people?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this book is for you. Raised by a pro-black, Pan-Afrikan single mother during the crack years of 1980s Washington, DC, and educated at Sidwell Friends School and Harvard University, Baratunde Thurston has more ...

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How to Be Black

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Overview

  • Have you ever been called "too black" or "not black enough"?
  • Have you ever befriended or worked with a black person?
  • Have you ever heard of black people?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this book is for you. Raised by a pro-black, Pan-Afrikan single mother during the crack years of 1980s Washington, DC, and educated at Sidwell Friends School and Harvard University, Baratunde Thurston has more than over thirty years' experience being black. Now, through stories of his politically inspired Nigerian name, the heroics of his hippie mother, the murder of his drug-abusing father, and other revelatory black details, he shares with readers of all colors his wisdom and expertise in how to be black. Beyond memoir, this guidebook offers practical advice on everything from "How to Be the Black Friend" to "How to Be the (Next) Black President" to "How to Celebrate Black History Month."

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Editorial Reviews

Fast Company
“Terrific...How to Be Black is an assault on nostalgia—a satirical, biographic attack on the idea that ‘blackness’ or any label should be derived from historical description.”
Booklist
“A hilarious look at the complexities of contemporary racial politics and personal identity.”
The Root
Struggling to figure out how to be black in the 21st century? Baratunde Thurston has the perfect guide for you...Fans of Stuff White People Like, This Week in Blackness and other blogs that take satirical shots at racial stereotypes are sure to love How to Be Black.
Christian Lander
"One of the smartest and funniest books I’ve ever read."
Christian Lander (via Twitter)
“One of the smartest and funniest books I’ve ever read.”
Publishers Weekly
In this hilarious blend of razor-sharp satire and memoir, Onion editor and cofounder of the Jack & Jill Politics blog Thurston muses on how, generally, to be black in today’s ever-changing world. He’s quick to point out that his book is not a magic potion that will make readers instantly black (it is not How to Become a Black Person If You Are Not Already Black). Instructive chapters include “How to Be The Black Friend” and its corollaries, “How to Speak for All Black People” and “How to Be The Black Employee.” Thurston’s life was shaped by his mother, a force of nature who instilled in him a love of camping and bicycling, along with a fiercely radical spirit. As a teen, he participated in the Ankobia program in D.C. taught by Pan-African black American activists. This same woman also enrolled him in the prestigious Sidwell Friends school (home to Chelsea Clinton and President Obama’s daughters) and cheered at his Harvard graduation. In order to get a fuller picture of blackness in America today, Thurston assembles “The Black Panel,” consisting of artists and stand-up comedians who address race in their work. Questions he poses to panel include when the members first realized they were black (most were very young), if they ever wished not to black (very few did), and what they thought of the idea of “post-racial America.” Using his own story and humor, Thurston demonstrates that the best way to “be” anything is to simply be yourself. Agent: Gary Morris. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Comedian and Onion director of digital Thurston (Better Than Crying: Poking Fun at Politics, the Press & Pop Culture, 2003) delivers a "book about the ideas of blackness" in the guise of a helpful how-to guide to being black. The author and a "Black Panel" made up of friends and colleagues, including one white person to avoid charges of reverse discrimination and also as a control group, ponder many questions about being black--e.g., "When did you first realize you were black?" and "Can you swim?" However, the humor does not serve the role of making light of race and racism, but rather as a gentle skewering that invites serious consideration of how black Americans are often limited by certain expectations concerning blackness. In "How to Speak for All Black People," Thurston challenges the assumption that one black person can speak to the experience of an entire race, as well as the assumption that a black person can only speak to the black experience. In "How to Be the Black Employee," he confronts the challenges of being hired both for the job and for being black--you will and must be, for instance, featured in every company photo. The humor does not always work; at times it is blog-like cleverness for the sake of cleverness (and is yet another joke about blacks needing white friends to get a cab really needed?). Thurston is at his best when he writes about his own life: growing up in Washington, D.C., attending Sidwell Friends School, matriculating at Harvard ("my experience of race at Harvard was full of joy and excitement"). The key to greater harmony is not necessarily seeing beyond race, but, as one Black Panelist puts it, to "see that and all of the things that I have done, to embrace all of me." Flawed but poignant and often funny.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062003225
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/30/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 134,332
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Baratunde Thurston is the director of digital at The Onion, the cofounder of Jack & Jill Politics, a stand-up comedian, and a globe-trotting speaker. He was named one of the 100 most influential African-Americans of 2011 by The Root and one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company magazine. Baratunde resides in Brooklyn and lives on Twitter (@baratunde).

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Thanks for Celebrating Black History Month by Acquiring This Book 1

Where Did You Get That Name? 17

When Did You First Realize You Were Black? 23

Mama Thurston 31

How Black Are You? 41

Do You Know What an Oreo Is? 51

Wealth-Related Horse Violence 57

Why Are You Wearing That White Man Over Your Heart? 63

The U.S. Propaganda Machine: A Middle School Paper 69

The White Student Union 75

How to Be The Black Friend 79

How to Speak for All Black People 89

Have You Ever Wanted to Not Be Black? 101

Can You Swim? 109

Going Black to Africa 115

But I Don't Want to Kill People 125

Being Black at Harvard 133

How to Be The Black Employee 147

How to Be The Angry Negro 171

How to Be The (Next) Black President 179

How's That Post-Racial Thing Working Out for Ya? 201

The Future of Blackness 209

Afterword: Race Work and Art-The Black Panel Speaks 225

Acknowledgments 253

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 41 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(23)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(7)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 41 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2012

    Funny and Insightful

    I know the title might throw a lot of people off and might even turn people off from reading a few sample pages. This book attempts to go beyond the stereotypes of what people might see on tv and in movies. The different insights are great. No group is a monolith. Eveyone has different experiences, different perspectives, and different personal struggles. That being said, if past experience proves correct, most of the reviews here will be by those who have not read a page of this book but are only making assumptions based on the title.

    18 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 5, 2012

    Excellent Book - But Not Enhanced! Poor e-Book Implementation

    So far as *How To Be Black* goes, buy it! It's excellent. You don't have to be black, Baratunde lets non-black people read it too! I'm one of them, and I not only enjoyed it immensely, but learned a lot and was humbled a bit, too. I'm grateful he decided to write this book. 5 stars for the book itself.

    But buy it as a physical BOOK, not an e-book.

    Because as good as Thurston's book is, Barnes & Noble's e-book implementation is not - maybe 2 stars. Why? Because not all the features worked when I read it on my Nook Color (up-to-date with the latest software) - none of the videos played, for instance. The pages turned, at least on my Nook. But not so on my Android tablet using the B&N app. I couldn't even open the book there!

    When you're charged this much for an e-book, which costs them what - a few cents? - to send you, I expect the "enhancements" to work perfectly when it's on the device for which it was intended. And I should be able to at least read it on my other devices. Not so in this case.

    Great book, poor e-book implementation. Fail. Not acceptable. Game over! Sorry, B&N, but this Nook owner will tread much more carefully before making another expensive purchase from your store.

    If you're looking to buy this book, I recommend it highly. But buy the book, and let the "enhanced" e-book alone. It wasn't worth the money to me.

    16 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 2, 2012

    Now I can finally be black!

    Seriously, this is a very funny book by a very funny guy. Baratunde takes a sensitive and potentially explosive topic (race relations) and puts a satirical spin on it. The chapters are a combination of advice and (sometimes painful) personal experience. I'm giving it as a gift to the white people in my life...which is, well, all of them....

    15 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2012

    DIY Blackness?

    I'm white and my family has been for a very long time, but I've always wanted to be black. I love gospel music, Louie Armstrong, Martin Luther King and I think black is beautiful. I will buy this book today after seeing Baratunde Thurston's interview on the Last Word.

    11 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2012

    Anonymous

    1. FIRST OFF. Okay, to the people ranting about how a book can't make you black, you are so uninformed and are wasting your time. This book is playful, sarcastic, hilarious, and if you recognized the cynicism in the description and title then you would know he makes some of the same points you're making. I HAVE ACTUALLY READ THIS BOOK. So i can make a testament to that.

    2. This book is fantastic. You will laugh harder than you thought you could laugh from a nonfiction autobiography!

    3. Baratunde is an extremely talented and witty writer but does not let his jokes and humor compromise how well he writes.

    4. I'm African American but I KNOW that this book would be enjoyed by every kind of person!

    READ IT!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2012

    A little humor. A lot of race.

    I first heard about this book when the author was on NPR. He was funny but also addressed some serious issues. If you liike edgy and thoughtful humor you will like this book. Great read for the hip thirty something crowd. If you have a black friend or are thinking about getting one read this book. If you enjoyed stuff white people like then this book is for you. If you want to be the next black president you should read this book. Good stuff.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    :)

    Okay so ive only read the sample, so far and it seem sto promise a very good book. After reading all of the negative reviews, i notices some came after only reading the title of the book. Come on people!! At least read the sample first. I heard him on NPR and had to find this book!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 6, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    interesting

    I read this book having heard an interview with Baratunde Thurston. I did not really know about him prior to the interview. I am a fairly liberal and well educated white person. But I always have more to learn and I am very interested in other people's experience. That being said, I believe I missed much of the humor and wit in this book because it hit a bit close to home. I am thankful for that -- it is so often difficult to see one's own fault. The book is well presented and I liked the inclusion of other voices as well as the Shakespeare quotes that weren't.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2012

    Excellent book! If you gave it one star based on its title, sham

    Excellent book! If you gave it one star based on its title, shame on you! Ever heard the expression "don't judge a book by its cover"? Don't worry, the book is not truly intended to be a manual for white people on how to be black, nor is it a primer for blacks on how to behave. If you actually read even just the beginning, you would see that It is an intentionally shockingly titled, thought provoking, sarcastic, funny, poignant, part satire, part memoir that challenges us to rethink the labels that society is so quick to place on people. You do not have to share the author's political views to enjoy the book, actually, that's part of the idea. "Blackness" is not one dimensional. It is as faceted, and varied as the faces of those who make up its spectrum. The book is well worth the read, but I highly recommend the audiobook version. It is read by the author, and provides a much fuller experience. After you read it, this is one to keep around as an excellent conversation starter!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2012

    Buy it!

    I bought this book before I got my nook. I spent more than 20 minutes in the book aisle of Target reading it; I had to buy it! It is humorous, poignantly honest and revealing; reminiscent of my own upbringing, adolescence, college life, parenting and work place experiences. Don't let the title bother you; that's actually the draw. It is definitely a book for all to enjoy!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    What?

    U can't be black just by reading this book u got to be black not just know what we like. By black boy

    3 out of 57 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2013

    To all negative comments

    Hello?! This was put in the humor book section for a reason! This was as a joke ovbiously I mean really! It want meant to be racist.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2013

    Well

    I have not read this book but the title seems odd im mixed but if u were 2 make a book called how to be white people would be like thats racist but u mak one called how to be black and it gets like 4 stars : /

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    Anonymous

    This book is hilarious. Thurston is a very talented author and he really appeals to all audiences (black and white). I shared this book with my classmates (high school), and hey all wanted to take the book home with them. A great read for all ages and races, Baratunde Thurston's How to Be Black is an amazing satirical read and I give it 5 stars!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    Cool

    Very instresting book

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2012

    Excellent read

    Loved reading this. I recommend it to all my friends.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2012

    Misty

    I totally agree with the review that says by black boy. U cant be black just by reading this book. I should know. Some people I know are dumb enough to do so and they would read this book, thinking it will help them.

    1 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2013

    A chapter from this book was assigned for one of my college cour

    A chapter from this book was assigned for one of my college courses. My initial reaction was, "I have GOT to read the rest of this book!" I literally read excerpts several times out Ioud for my family and friends because it was SO hilarious. I enjoyed the mix of humor and information about how African-Americans are perceived.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2013

    How ever wrote this is racist

    The author is black

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2013

    Iriscontrols

    First of all to the "hatters" who are all upset about the title of the book, and haven't even read it, get over yourselves!

    The book is written by a comedian. It isn't meant to be an instruction manual nor is it racist. It's meant to be humorous.

    Remember humor? From Richard Pryor to Steve Harvey, humor is how we Black folks have dealt with many of the daily challenges that would otherwise have us rioting in the streets.

    Secondly, this book points out how we precieve ourselves and others as Black people and how others precieve us. Read the book before you jump to judgements.

    You may find you see some of yourself in the people depicte, you may even learn something about what other Black people have struggled through, you might even find yourself laughing and maybe, just maybe, that will help you get through all the other crap we have to go through.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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