How to Be Black

How to Be Black

Book - 2012 | First edition.
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Have you ever been called "too black" or "not black enough"? Have you ever befriended or worked with a black person? 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 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." To provide additional perspective, Baratunde assembled an award-winning Black Panel--three black women, three black men, and one white man (Christian Lander of Stuff White People Like)--and asked them such revealing questions as: "When Did You First Realize You Were Black?" ""How Black Are You?" "Can You Swim?" The result is a humorous, intelligent, and audacious guide that challenges and satirizes the so-called experts, purists, and racists who purport to speak for all black people. With honest storytelling and biting wit, Baratunde plots a path not just to blackness, but one open to anyone interested in simply "how to be."
Publisher: New York : Harper, [2012]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2012
ISBN: 9780062003218
Branch Call Number: 305.896 THU
Characteristics: viii, 254 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


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Jan 25, 2020

We often hear things described as laugh out loud funny, and usually that’s an exaggeration invented by somebody’s marketing department. But this book actually did make me laugh out loud over and over again. Thurston takes on a potentially difficult subject and treats it with just the right amount of insight and silly humor. The last chapter is more serious, but not a severe change in tone. I will look for more by this author.

May 09, 2017

A good read. The better sections relate to the author's experiences. If I had to sum up the work in a sentence, it would be this:

Don't let others force a definition of what it means to be black upon you; if you are black, being black is being you.

Levi_1 Jul 05, 2014

I did not believe in bad literature until I encountered this book, at first glance it is quite humorous and Baratunde is able to grasp your attention, but the further you progress into this book, you only wish that it was as good as the intro. This feels less than a book but a jam-packed book filled with blog-isque writing. No congregate chronological path with thrown about stories which do little to teach the reader lessons. Along the lines as a waste of time, there is little to learn here and not much humor, most of which is very dry. I would almost say I would prefer to read some more of the others perspectives rather then his. (Thurston uses others peoples perspectives through out the book). Perhaps it is because I grew up in Brooklyn but almost all of this is not necessary to read because everything seems like "common sense". If you enjoy bad books then knock yourself out, forcing myself to get through this one was out of habit.

Jul 22, 2013

A hilarious yet insightful look into the complexities of race relations in the U.S. If you're a fan of The Onion, you know you'll like this, since Baratunde is one of the editors.

crankylibrarian Apr 08, 2013

Baratunde Thurston is a pretty funny guy, although the best jokes in this memoir/stand-up routine are in the introduction. Part autobiography, part humorous manifesto, _How To Be Black_ chronicles Thurston's inner city childhood, private school education and successful career at Harvard and in corporate America, using his experiences to illustrate the perils of being "The Black Friend", "The Black Employee" (his chapter on corporate diversity programs is especially apt), "The Black Spokesperson" and, inevitably "The Angry Negro". Accompanied by essays both humorous and thoughtful by a panel of "professional black people" (plus a token Canadian), Thurston's trip down the memory lane of marginalization will evoke a chorus of "Mmm hmms" from anyone who's ever dreaded being served watermelon at the company picnic.


Spot-on social and political satire by a black Harvard grad. Draws on his own experience as well as others' and current events.


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