Book: How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston
Genre: humor / memoir
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 2012
Pages: 254

Source: Library

Summary: From the Introduction of How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston:

…the odds are high that you acquired this book during the nationally sanctioned season for purchasing black cultural objects, also known as Black History Month. That’s part of the reason I chose February as the publication date. If you’re like most people, you buy one piece of black culture per year during this month, and I’m banking on this book jumping out at you from the bookshelf or screen. Even if you’re reading the book years after its original publication, it’s probably February-ish on your calendar. That’s absolutely fine. You’re doing your part to celebrate blackness, whether you are black or not, so I’m going to run with that and offer some helpful instructions for how to take further advantage of this month. You asked for it. You got a book called How to Be Black, so don’t start complaining now. (p. 2)

Comedian Baratunde Thurston of The Onion (but no longer: Baratunde Leaves Healthcare, Job At Onion. Initiates Phase 4) and Jack & Jill Politics wrote How to Be Black as a memoir, guidebook, and satire.
cover of How to Be Black by Baratunde ThurstonThoughts: The Diversity Book Club will discuss  How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston next week and I’m going to miss the meeting which makes me sad. I didn’t want to skip the first funny book we’ve had on our book list, so I read it anyway.

What struck me most was how the humor opened me to experience things that had been a mere thought construct before. After four years with our book club, I’d encountered most of these issues before. (Although I realized we’ve had a gap in books about blacks in the workplace — does anyone have book suggestions?) Reading about an issue and even discussing it isn’t the same as feeling it.

In his announcement about quitting The Onion, Baratunde Thurston linked to a video of his keynote at SXSW Interactive Festival which he summarized:

Essentially, I argued that in an increasingly noisy world of information and digital interactions, comedy can still deliver the truth in a way that captures people’s attention and does so in an essentially human way.

His new venture, Cultivated Wit, will explore that idea further. From that website: “comedy is an essential language for explaining an increasingly complex world.” The book How to Be Black convinced me of that truth. I look forward to what comes out of this effort.

Appeal: The book jacket details the appeal:

If You Don’t Buy This Book, You’re a Racist.
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.

Get a head start on Black History Month and pick this up now!

Reviews: Other book bloggers reviewed and liked this book, too:

I loved the response at relentless reflection for a female perspective: When I realized I was Black. Teela said: “After reading the synopsis, I was mad that I didn’t write this book first.”  If she ever writes her book, I would love to read it as our next funny book for the Diversity Book Club.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Signature of Joy Weese Moll


Book Review: How to be Black by Baratunde Thurston — 1 Comment

  1. And there, you read it at a non-February-ish time: the exception to the rule! I really enjoyed this book and have found it so easy to recommend because of the humour; thanks very much to linking to my thoughts on it too.

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