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How to Be Black Hardcover – January 31, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A hilarious blend of razor-sharp satire and memoir...Using his own story and humor, Thurston demonstrates that the best way to ‘be’ anything is to simply be yourself.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Terrific...How to Be Black is an assault on nostalgia--a satirical, biographic attack on the idea that ‘blackness’ or any label should be derived from historical description.” (Fast Company)

“A hilarious look at the complexities of contemporary racial politics and personal identity.” (Booklist)

Struggling to figure out how to be black in the 21st century? Baratunde Thurston has the perfect guide for you...Fans of Stuff White People Like, This Week in Blackness and other blogs that take satirical shots at racial stereotypes are sure to love How to Be Black. (The Root)

“One of the smartest and funniest books I’ve ever read.” (Christian Lander (via Twitter))

From the Back Cover

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?

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."

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062003216
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062003218
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (233 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Baratunde is a comedian, author and former director of digital for The Onion. His responsibilities included producing the "War For The White House" 2008 election coverage, helping the company adapt its storytelling to new digital platforms such as smartphones and social media, and expanding The Onion's public voice as well as relationships with the technology community. Baratunde is a best-selling New York Times author of How To Be Black. He regularly engages in "digital performance art" including being @The_Swine_Flu, running a real world campaign for his Foursquare mayorship and "live hate-tweeting" all Twilight movies. He's been a standup comedian for more than 10 years and is a highly sought-after public speaker addressing topics related to the media, politics, technology and marketing. Also black people. He was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company magazine and has worked with the White House Office of Public Engagement as a digital advisor.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Jessica on January 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I've followed Baratunde on Twitter for a couple years now, and I've been anticipating this book for a while. He's hilarious, and the book is proof of it. With chapters on things like How to Be the Next Black President, how could it not?

While the book is funny - and mostly satirical - it also comments on what it actually means to be black in the U.S. today. The personal stories that Baratunde shares are heartening, informative, allegorical and more.

The interviews with people like Elon James White and Cheryl Contee are fantastic, too. Basically just a fantastic book.
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50 of 57 people found the following review helpful By kaimac on January 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is the book that every lover of all things black (hip hop, basketball, being a good dancer, being a wide receiver in the NFL etc) has been waiting for. Those of you that have stood on the edges, desperately wanting to be more black but have been too scared to take the first step... this book is for you.

The book answers important questions like:

* Once you've gone black, can you in fact, go back?
* What's up with those funny handshakes?
* Can white men really not jump?
* How can Obama be black AND Hawaiian? Confusing.
* What sort of rims should I get on my Escalade?
* What exactly is Grape Drank?

Not really, but it is super funny, very touching, and an all round bloody smart read. Baratunde is the guy from the Onion who gave Donald Trump one of the best smack downs in internet history (Google it). His first book doesn't disappoint in the slightest.

Bottom line: read it if you like funny things, are interested in race in America, or just want to raise eyebrows on the subway a bit (the last one doesn't work for the kindle version, unfortunately).
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47 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Race is a tough topic to discuss in the U.S. Baratunde Thurston makes it a whole lot easier with the humor in this book. Both a memoir of growing up black in the late 20th century and a sharp social commentary--not to mention a handy instruction manual--"How to Be Black" is a funny and thought-provoking read.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By AykonSilvers on February 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I am a white guy who was born and raised in rural southern Oklahoma where racism was still quite prevalent. I never considered myself racist... I had black friends, dated a few black girls and now my family and I have a foster baby who is black. This book is an amazing insight into the world that I never knew but somehow felt. I greatly enjoy listening to Baratunde describe his life and experiences mixed with a little humor and a healthy dose of satire. This is a must read for any one who has ever wondered about blackness but was too afraid to ask.
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42 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Jigna on January 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This wonderful book is actually not about being black. It's about being you, whoever you might be. In sharing his life journey, wit, and ruminations, Baratunde helps us see that each of us is on our journey to "blackness."
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Linda Mitchell on June 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I finished reading HTBB a few weeks ago and enjoyed it thoroughly, except for all the profanity. I realize nowadays people spread profanity around like confetti. There is no shame to their game when it comes to cursing. However, being a non-curser, it still jars me somewhat when all of a sudden it is in my face. That said, I waited until now to write a review to see what still resonated with me after a few weeks. First of all, it is an easy read. I read HTBB in eight to nine hours on a road trip. Second, Baratunde is so smart, honest and funny. How do I know? Just read the chapter about 'How to Be The Black Employee.' I laughed so hard about the watermelon dilemma. This book shows Baratunde's great intellect. Baratunde reminds me of comedian Jerry Seinfield, in how he can take a seeming innocuous subject like swimming and give it such a hilarious look from the Black perspective. Third, I think including the Black Panel was a clever idea. What I am taking away with me from HTBB is that we all need to take the time to understand each other better. We are all different and quirky. When we realize that, we can have so much fun together laughing at ourselves.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Book Nympho on September 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I heard this book when the author was a guest on an episode of the game show podcast Ask Me Another. It sounded interesting and my library had a copy so I picked it up. I read it after finishing I'd Rather We Got Casinos (and Other Black Thoughts by Larry Wilmore and found this book to have much more substance whereas the former was mostly jokes.

In How to Be Black Thurston perfectly injects humor into the topics and situations he talks about without losing any of the gravitas. He teaches the reader without them ever realizing they're learning because they're too busy enjoying his writing. But when you pause to really think about some of the things he says, you realize there's so much more he leaves unsaid, leaving it up to the reader to put the pieces together for themselves.

Under the guise of telling someone How to Be Black, he is educating the reader about the black experience and some of the things black people go through that I'm sure many white people are simply oblivious to. What I really took away from this book is the importance of understanding another person's experience and also examine your own contributions to their experience.

I think anyone can benefit from reading this book and even though the examples are specific to black culture, you could also plug in any other ethnicity or culture and have the same point be made. The more we learn about one another the more comfortable we become being around different people which leads to getting to know a person and the realization that we're not so different after all. And when we can come together and realize we're all in it together, then we can start working to make the world better for everyone.
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