- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Hyperion; 1 edition (July 11, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1401302335
- ISBN-13: 978-1401302337
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,213,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Not a Genuine Black Man: Or, How I Claimed My Piece of Ground in the Lily-White Suburbs Hardcover – July 11, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
This memoir offers a candid and funny response to those who question the racial authenticity of successful black men. After receiving a letter asserting that he is "not a genuine black man," Copeland"comic, actor, radio, talk show host"tries to understand the qualifications needed to earn the classification: "I can't swim. That's black. But I can't play basketball either." Raised in San Leandro, a suburb bordering Oakland, Calif., Copeland delves into his experiences as a lone black child struggling to blend in among a white majority. His mother attempted to assimilate in any way possible, converting to Catholicism and taking her family to "brunch" after church, despite resistance from whites. Copeland details a futile search for a barber who would consent to cut his hair, being searched by a security guard while trying to shop and receiving an eviction notice based purely on the color of the family's skin. Copeland's comedic talent is evident throughout the book, though he concedes that he uses laughter to keep the pain at bay and endured a time when he descended into depression. Honest and engaging, this memoir is a valuable book for anyone trying to straddle racial lines, for anyone who has ever felt out of place. (July)
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About the Author
Brian Copeland is an award-winning writer, stand-up comedian, and actor. He lives in San Leandro, California, with his wife and their three children. His one-man show, also entitled Not a Genuine Black Man, was the longest-running solo show in San Francisco history and opened in New York City in 2006. The San Francisco Chronicle called it "a beautiful mix of wry humor and heartbreak, indignation and inspiration, a singular story of extreme isolation that speaks to anyone who's ever felt out of place."
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Top Customer Reviews
Another thing I loved about the book is its intriguing structure. The autobiography isn't told in a purely chronological fashion, but rather each chapter skips from Brian's youth, to when he was 35, then a teenager, back to his youth and so forth. This manner of dealing with time in the book kept me involved in a chapter about when he was 35, but I was always wondering in the back of my mind what was going happen when I get back to another chapter when he was 8 years old. When I finished the book, I had a complete picture of Brian's life up to this time. I loved this method of organizing the chapters, as well as the revealing quotes from the real estate bigots of the 1970s that introduce many of the chapters.
The writing is exceptionally vivid, and if you want a really terrific read, BUY THIS BOOK. With a theme similar to Hemingway's "The Old Man and The Sea," "Not A Genuine Black Man" touched my heart when young Brian said, '"They may beat me to a pulp,' I thought. 'But I won't let them win. I'll never let them win.'" (pg. 65) Well, Brian Copeland has a winner with this book. I hope you read it soon. You'll be glad you did.
If you've ever seen Brian do stand up comedy, listened to him discussing topical news issues on his highly rated talk radio show or met him in person he comes across as being "not like other blacks".
Every white person knows someone like Brian. The co-worker at the office who doesn't have the "accent". Who talks about and does "normal" things. The one who is "just like us". The one who "doesn't play the race card". You've heard at least one person say "why can't they all be like him?"
There are white people who believe racism and discrimination are a thing of the past, saying that no one alive today was ever a slave and everyone now has the right to vote. They feel that African Americans just have a chip on their shoulder based only on injustices that happened a long time ago to someone else. For "proof", they point to African Americans like Tiger Woods, Barack Obama, Colin Powell, Dick Parsons, Stanley O'Neal, John W. Thompson and Oprah Winfrey. Surely they are "just like us", the theory goes, because they choose not to feel victimized by the ancient injustices others suffered.
Copeland lets us see behind the curtain. We learn of the pain that prejudice causes first hand through the eyes of Brian as a child and the toll that experience takes on him as an adult. We learn that with everything he has accomplished, there are white people to this day who say "Yeah, but he's still just a n____". We learn the pain doesn't stop with the discrimination -- when he refuses to make an issue of it and not let it get him down, there are those in the African American community that accuse him of not being a "genuine black man".
Brian let's us know that he is successful and "like us" not because he never experienced the pain of prejudice, but rather he is successful and "like us" despite it.
"Not a Genuine Black Man" is a must read with lessons for everyone. African American readers will surely relate to his experiences and the pain he feels. White readers may begin to understand it.