I first bought this book because Amazon said that it was often paired with Dear White People, which was what I had really intended to buy at the time. How To Be Black sat on my bookshelf for three months until my boyfriend picked it up, then spent another four months being partially read at his apartment until we recently broke up. When I got it back, I decided that it would be a good idea to actually read it, and that took me all of two days. I don’t know why I took so long to read this book; it’s very funny and insightful.
Baratunde Thurston’s How To Be Black is not a step-by-step guide on what you need to do to be a black person. It does not work that way. The novel really talks a lot about Thurston’s experience as a black man growing up in Washington, DC, having attended the premiere Ivy League school, and making a way for himself in the United States of America.
I really like this book because it really asked the question: what does blackness mean to black people? What does it really mean to be black enough? How is it perceived by non-black people?
I appreciated that we not only got Thurston’s view of blackness, but he also took the time to interview other people who weren’t just friends but entrepreneurs themselves. These people’s stories were not mine, but I could relate to them. I know exactly what it means to have someone question your blackness. I never thought about having to define my own, but I remember people looking at me weird for being black and liking things like anime and what was considered punk rock at the time.
This book is largely Thurston’s own life memoir, but he also writes some chapters as a way to survive being the black [insert role] in whatever situation. I personally believe that no black person actually intends to fit the Angry Black Person role, but Thurston believes that there is a time and a place for it. I agree with him, but I’ll always feel that it is exhausting. One can only be mad for so long, and we just don’t have the energy to be mad at everything.
I would recommend this book to any and everyone. It’s insightful, and causes you to be just a bit more introspective in how you view people. It made me really think about how I percieve my own blackness, as well as how the black community interacts with itself in comparison to other minority communities. These are conversations that I think need to be had, even if I don’t have the words to start them myself. It is especially important in the current cultural and political landscape of the United States.
So, if you feel you can relate to Thurston’s experience, or are just curious as to what this book is about, you should totally go read How To Be Black. Despite it’s discussion of serious topics, it’s actually quite funny.
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