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"Part autobiography, part stand-up routine, part contemporary political analysis, and astute all over, 'How to Be Black' might do more to expose and explore the shifting dynamics of race in America than all the Pew data of the past decade. Reading this book made me both laugh and weep with poignant recognition. Baratunde Thurston has given us a hysterical, irreverent exploration of one of America’s most painful and enduring issues. He captures the alchemy of familial narratives, community socialization, and individual volition that makes blackness a complex performance of the self. 'How to be Black' is the must read text of the so-called post-racial moment."
- Melissa Harris-Perry, contributing analyst for MSNBC and columnist for THE NATION
"As a black woman, this book helped me realize I'm actually a white man."
- Patton Oswalt, author of Zombie Spaceship Wasteland
"The funniest black guy on the Internet has written the definitive manual on how to make it in post-racial America as a member of a despised minority group. 'How to be Black' is guaranteed to infuriate all those poor, deluded souls, both black and white, who shuffle through life without ever managing to 'see color' (February)."
- Tony Norman, writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Baratunde, The Onion’s director of digital and cofounder of Jack & Jill Politics, offers a hilarious look at the complexities of contemporary racial politics and personal identity…[W]ith poignancy and humor…[h]e takes on the challenges of how to speak for every black person in the nation, how to measure degrees of blackness, how to take a break from it all."
"In this hilarious blend of razor-sharp satire and memoir, Onion Director of Digital 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 the 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.
- Publishers Weekly
“If you don’t buy this book, you’re a racist.”
- Baratunde Thurston, author of How To Be Black
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 over thirty years’ experience in 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 of how to be black. (Harper; January 31, 2012, $23.99)
Combining personal memoir, interviews, irreverent how-to, and resource guides to meet every reader’s blackness needs, this book 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.”
For additional perspective, Baratunde assembled an award-winning Black Panel—three black women, three black men, and one white man (gotta have a control group. This is science!)—and asked them such revealing questions as “When Did You First Realize You Were Black?” “How Black Are You?” “Can You Swim?”
The Black Panel includes wisdom from:
- Cheryl Contee, co-founder of the blog Jack & Jill Politics
- damali ayo, author of How To Rent a Negro, conceptual artist and comedian
- Elon James White, creator of the web video series This Week in Blackness
- Jacquetta Szathmari, creator of That's Funny. You Didn't Sound Black on the Phone
- W. Kamau Bell, creator of the W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour
- Derrick Ashong, co-founder of the band Soulfege and host of The Stream on Al Jazeera English
- Christian Lander, author of Stuff White People Like
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.”
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, one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company magazine, and will be giving the opening keynote address at SXSW Interactive 2012. Then-Senator Barack Obama called him “someone I need to know.” Baratunde resides in Brooklyn and lives on Twitter (@baratunde).
Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Stay Black.