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Mirthful Musing About Being African-American
on November 19, 2016
On the upside, Mr. Thurston's 'How to be Black' addresses some of the issues of being African-American in the U.S. by injecting a great deal of humor and insight. It is not a work of dripping angry sarcasm but more in the line of light ribbing and exaggeration to drive home a point. Speaking as a white guy in his mid-fifties, the book offers insights and avoids putting Caucasians on the defensive. 'How to be Black' is a mixture of memoir, analysis, views of a few of his artistic friends, and silly bits. The book has a smidgen of profanity and drops the N-word a few times. If it were a movie, the thing would be rated PG. The writing is informal and the chapters are short.
I found Mr. Thurston's personal stories to be more engaging than the silly lists of what a black person should do in certain environments such as working in a company where you are the only person of color, being labelled as acting too white or too black, negotiating a predominately white school, being expected to be speaking for all African-Americans, dealing with the nonsense of our country being post-racial, and of course, the pluses and minuses of Barack Obama being president. Being white comes with a lot of privileges that we take for granted. Mr. Thurston's playfully demonstrates how a white's everyday actions can be fraught with challenges for African-Americans when they do them.
The problem I had with 'How to be Black' is its patchwork quality. Jumping from wonderful personal stories into lampoon rules to follow then brief responses by a handful of friends was somewhat annoying. The Afterword takes on a more serious tone.There's a lot of sharp insight but the book felt disjointed. Maybe you won't have a problem with it. I did learn stuff from the book and it did make me smile quite a bit.