How to Be Black

Baratunde Thurston, Author
Baratunde Thurston. Harper, $24.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-200321-8
Reviewed on: 01/23/2012
Release date: 01/01/2012
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-206161-4
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-209804-7
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-206274-1
Paperback - 254 pages - 978-0-06-200322-5
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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.)
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