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Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man? Paperback – January 31, 2006

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Editorial Reviews Review

"Racism," Charles Barkley says, "is the biggest cancer of my lifetime. And I know I can't cure the cancer, but doesn't somebody have to attack it?" Barkley's means of attack in Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?--not surprising from one of the most outspoken athletes of our time--is to break past the taboo of race by talking about it in the open. What might be surprising is that Barkley steps aside and lets other people talk, too. While in his previous bestseller, I May Be Wrong but I Doubt It, the former NBA MVP and current TNT commentator held forth on a wide variety of subjects, for his new book he sought out a baker's dozen of leading figures in entertainment, business, and government (and yes, one athlete) and sat down with each for a frank conversation about race.

Of course race is not a simple topic, and each discussion heads in its own direction. Tiger Woods speaks both of his biracial identity and of how moving it was to see the black staff at Augusta National lined up to see him put on the green jacket as Masters champion. George Lopez talks about the pressures of creating a breakthrough Latino sitcom in an almost all-white industry. Film producer Peter Guber surprises Barkley when he says that he made The Color Purple out of economic self-interest, not idealism. Many of the discussions turn, like Guber's, not to traditional civil rights but to economics, which Rabbi Steven Leder calls the real "last taboo subject in America." It's clear that the audience Barkley most hopes to reach with this book is the young black men and women that he and many of his interview subjects are concerned about. "We're losing," activist Marian Wright Edelman tells him, "and if we don't stop this trend, we're going to be headed back to slavery." Barkley's celebrity subjects can provide some models for success for those readers, but one also hopes Barkley can continue the conversation by turning the spotlight on those struggling with the problems of race outside the sometimes protective glare of fame. --Tom Nissley

Who's Afraid of Talking to a Large Black Man?

Throughout his career, Charles Barkley has always been willing--quite willing--to call it as he sees it, making him one of the most quotable athletes of his era and, many have suggested, a future political candidate. He's as happy talking issues as talking hoops, and for his new book, Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man? he sat down for conversations across the country about the troublesome topic of race in America. We had our own conversation on the subject with Sir Charles: Read it to find why he wrote the book, what he tells his own biracial daughter about race, and why he thinks sports can be a model for race relations.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Don't let the cheeky title, the byline or the picture on the cover fool you: this is a serious book that's not about Charles Barkley. Instead, this work, edited by the Washington Post and ESPN's Wilbon, is a candid collection of 13 interviews by Barkley with prominent Americans like Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Tiger Woods, Morgan Freeman and comedian George Lopez on the oft-avoided subject of race. Barkley, well known for outspokenness as a player and an on-air commentator, challenges his interviewees to deal with this delicate issue head on. Barkley wisely keeps his opinions brief, letting his dynamic counterparts take center stage. In doing so he gets these stars to open up on how American society fares on such topics as racism, race relations, welfare reform, economic and social discrimination and creating opportunities for minorities. Mixed in with the bigger name celebs and politicians are lesser-known folk, such as Robert Johnson (the NBA's first black owner), the Children's Defense Fund's Miriam Wright Edelman (who laments that there are "580,000 black men in prison compared to about 45,000 who graduate from college each year") and Rabbi Steven Leder. For all the different backgrounds and opinions, all the participants believe the racial divide in America can only be bridged with a combination of reforms to our educational, medical and economic practices and a strong self-evaluation by the African-American community. Everyone also agrees that a core group of strong black leaders must emerge for these changes to be enacted. Surprisingly, this eye-opening book might point to Barkley as just such a leader. (Apr. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (January 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594482055
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594482052
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,450,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Jeff A on April 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In this book you really do not hear from Charles Barkley so much. When he writes it is very simple and to the point, with very little humor (which is what he is known for). It is fascinating to read opinions and personal stories from Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, Obama, and many other famous peronalities on their ideas about race and other issues in America. This book has very little to do with Charles Barkley, and if I were to read it blindly I would have never guessed that he wrote it. This book has a great compilation of contributors and it is worth reading just to learn more about them alone.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Teresia K. Adams on April 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
OK, I understand that some look at this as some celebrity interview book, but I see it as more. Sir Charles is always himself and his opinions are well stated. I happen to agree with a lot of what this book has to say. It has a pop culture edge but that is ok. Does everything have to be academic? It is enjoyable and has a good heart.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on April 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
Until now, I was not much of a of Charles Barkley fan. I always saw him as a "washed up bully" and ex-basketball superstar, still trying to cash-in on his name recognition and tying to keep it in the "limelight" by saying outlandish and provocative things. I no longer think that after reading this book, which I bought after seeing it, and Barkley "unceremoniously put down" in Larry Elders incredibly ill conceived, confusing and poorly written book called "Stupid Black Men."

My thinking was that if Larry Elders didn't like Charles Barkley, then there must still be something good and redeeming about him that I had not yet discovered. And sure enough, there was: This book, which is a miniature masterpiece. Barkley is no "Stupid Black Man," as Elders has portrayed him to be.

Rather incredibly, this book is the missing dialogue on race that America has never had, and may never have. It is just the opposite of Elders' "Stupid Black Men" and the "Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint two-man road show:" "Come on People," in which both take the fashionable "low road of least resistance: "Just attack Black men, and you are safe: America will love you, but nothing will ever be done, and nothing will ever change:

End of the American dialogue on race.

Perhaps for the first time in American history, we get a collection of what fourteen successful and well-known people have to say about race in America -- rather than mindless ideological tripe, oozing out as more "Christianized racism," from the likes of Armstrong Williams and Larry Elders. And what these fourteen people (most of whom are black) have to say will not only surprise Cosby, Pousaint and Elders, but the rest of America as well.

Hear what Tiger Woods, Ice Cube, Barack Obama, George Lopez, Samuel L.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By sayock on June 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Each discussion heads in its own direction" is absolutely right. However, that doesn't take away from this maybe just makes you feel a bit deceived by what the book is about. It's still an interesting book that makes you think and also, in my opinion, underscores the fact that most blacks--no matter how different you think they are from you--think rather similarly, particularly when it comes to racial issues. I found myself agreeing with a lot of what the people involved in this book had to say while learning a few things at the same time.

If you're looking at these reviews in order to decide whether or not you want to buy/read this book...I have to say that I think a lot of these reviewers miss the point, and I even wonder if a couple of them read the book, particularly Shirlene (I think she just wanted to go off). I think this book really IS about helping. I think it really IS "about" getting kids off the streets, making them forget professional sports and getting them into just can't take "about" LITERALLY. What the book does is take blacks who many in the black community would think of as successful, mixes in a white person a lot of blacks respect (Bill Clinton)...throws in a few non-blacks and other blacks who are less known by many blacks but who maybe should be of more interest to the black community or who go to show that blacks are not the only ones interested in racial issues and interracial relations...these people sit down with Barkley separately and discuss race as it relates to them (some of their own experiences), how they view race in the world and why they find it essential for young people to work harder on race relations or to get somewhere in life.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dennis L. Enderson on August 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is rare to find a public fugure who speaks as plainly and honestly as Mr. Barkley does in this book. It is clear that he is comfortable in his own skin, and doesn't mind saying exactly what is on his mind. This is a book about racism in modern society. However, refreshingly, there is no whining or finger-pointing. Through interviews with a number of prominent and successful Americans, Mr. Barkley attempts to both define and seek practical solutions for the scourge of racial prejudice. He skillfully engages the subjects of his interviews and succeeds in extracting a host of fascinating and enlightening revelations about their lives. I applaud Charles Barkley for channeling his celebrity status into such a worthwhile and noble endeavor. The only reason I withhold a fifth star is Mr. Barkley's decision to enlist the assistance of an "editor," Michael Wilbon. I have seen Mr. Barkley interviewed, and I do not believe he needs an assistant to turn out a quality product. I hope Charles continues to write, and gives strong consideration to a career in politics. Highly recommended.
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