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How to Be Black
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How to Be Black

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  3,638 ratings  ·  647 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 254 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by HarperCollins
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Cinnamon
I am loving this book so far. If nothing else, the conversations, smirks, giggles, and very confused looks I've gotten while reading this book in public have been great. Having an older African American woman point at the book, smirk and say "Good luck with that!" was a highlight of my week. And then just a few days later an older African American gentleman went on a rant to me about "in his day" black people were trying to be white and now there were too many white folks trying to act black, bu...more
Nando Rossi
(First off, I heard this on Audiobook, and I URGE you to do the same. I'm sure the book is just fine, but on the audio version you get Baratunde's narration and original recordings from the interviewees)

Wow, to think this is the debut from Baratunde Thurston. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next... This book may be funny, but the message in it couldn't be more serious and straightforward. I feel like a door was opened to me, exposing a little bit of what an American black person goes t...more
Shamus McCarty
I got this book because it looked like it was funny. I also was hoping it would teach me how to dance and elevate my freestyle skills. Unfortunately, it was made clear early on in the book that this book will not teach non-blacks how to be black. I almost returned to book and demanded my money back, but it was pretty funny up to that point so I kept reading.


Baratunde is a funny guy. I have a feeling we would get along and crack up at bad jokes all night if we ran into each other at a bar. The b...more
willaful
3.5 stars. I had to laugh when I started this book and read "Even if you're reading the book years after its original publication, it's probably February-ish on your calendar." I swear, I first heard about this book in January, from someone on my friend's list, and my library hold didn't come through til February!

This is a somewhat uneasy mix of genuine memoir and satire about black stereotypes, and I found it enlightening, mostly goodhearted, but more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny. Quite po...more
Kathleen
I don't always read Baratunde Thurston books in public, but when I do I get asked about it every time. Or someone just stops walking past me and bursts out laughing. Thanks, Library Coworker! I was ready to burst out laughing as well, because Thurston's autobiography is just that funny. Of course, he wasn't familiar with the book or Thurston until I mentioned The Onion.

So maybe this isn't a book for white girls to read in public. Or maybe the title is an ingenious marketing scheme because I had...more
Megan Hicks
"How to be black" is, as Thurston admits, a huge topic that one book can never really hope to tackle in its entirety. But Thurston admits as much, and his best effort is certainly worth reading. As a white woman, of course I never have been and never will be black, but I think that this book is a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand race and racism in the United States. Much of the book is deeply personal and the book is really a strange chimera of memoir and satire. But it works...more
Desiree
Initial thoughts: More of a 3.5 for me mostly because it lagged in a few places but overall a great and funny book.

Full review:
I'll do this in bullet points mostly because I'm trying to catch up on my reviews and may not remember all the details:

1. Baratunde is really funny and witty and it shows in his writing.

2. Some of the chapters lagged a little but that's to be expected. Not every part of a satirical book can be laugh out loud funny.

3. The section on his name and Nigerians discovering it...more
Hayden Casey
Reviews and more at The Teen Bookworm!

2.5/5 Stars


How to be Black presents itself as more of an ode to the African-American race than a memoir, but it soon lets you know that it is in fact the latter. The intro and first chapter are very humorous and engaging, and the entire book is filled with short, little humorous passages as well, but the narrative jumps around on the timeline quite a bit, and it is bogged down with random entries that don't quite add to the story. Nevertheless, it is enterta...more
Hilary
I learned about this book after hearing the author's fantastic interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. The interview was superb, and the buzz about the book was exciting, so I was very hyped to read it. The book has two interweaving themes - an autobiography of the author, and a "manual" on How To Be Black (as the title suggests) which brings in "testimony" from other black bloggers, activists, authors, etc. The manual part was funny and informative, though I have read some other influential bo...more
April
Apr 14, 2012 April rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Middle class, politically liberal people of color
This book is affirming and inspiring. I am awed that Baratunde Thurston can talk about race and yet maintain a sense of humor, hope and forgiveness. And it's not like he sweeps history under the rug, either. From this book you can get a real sense of how exhausting it is to be black in White America. This book is the real deal!

It can get lonely sometimes being a person of color in elite academic/professional settings, and I really think Thurston gets that. So for me personally, I really connecte...more
Tess
So far, this is great! Half tongue in cheek, half true! For instance, here is a list of things you can do to observe Black history month (he has reasons/commentary after each one. You'll have to read the book to find out what they are):

1. Change the wallpaper on your computer or mobile phone to a image of a slave plantation.
2. Watch BET
3. Avoid being explicitly racist
4. Know the key people
5. Observe anything and everything that President Obama does
6. Hum a Negro Spiritual
7. Read The Autobiograph...more
Tatiana
How can this book deserve the coveted 5 star award, you say? Simply this: it made me laugh a whole lot, it's hopeful and wonderfully good-natured, and it inspired me with the energizing realization that the world is changing right this very moment in crazy, unforseen, wonderful ways that mean we all are stretching and changing the definitions of Blackness, Whiteness, Femaleness, Chineseness, Fatness, or whatever else we are -- to whomever we honestly are and whomever we intend to become! I just...more
Todd Nemet
I think the racial tension of the late-60s somehow got into my DNA along with a bunch of my mom's diet pills, so please forgive me if I pass out from anxiety in the middle of reviewing this book.

Baratunde Thurston did a great interview on Fresh Air, so I was very interested to read this book. Several Goodreads friends also liked it, which also pushed it up on my queue a few books.

When I finally found it at the local bookstore, I was dismayed to find it in the humor section, filed amongst the nov...more
Alice
Baratunde Thurston is like a kinder, gentler, Aaron McGruder. He's not afraid to tackle issues of racial relations (while interrogating the notion of "blackness", whatever that means in the broader cultural and personal sense) and he's really fucking funny. Seriously, I can't remember when a book made me laugh while reading on the bus. I think part of the book's strength comes from its format, part memoir, part satire, and part group discussion (comprised of black bloggers/writers/artists and to...more
Lizzie
How to Be Black is the reason audiobooks were created. Being many things professionally: a humorist, a political voice, a technologist, it is not surprising that Thurston's delivery in his audiobook is so top notch and versatile. Thurston's tone matches the theme of his book : part memoir, part satire, part political and historical commentary. This is what makes this book so great is that all of these elements are necessary for a thoughtful discussion on race in America. The audiobook includes i...more
erin
Baratunde Thurston comes across as completely earnest in How to Be Black, and this may be the strength of his book. Thurston's stories and the way he relates them to larger social issues are thoughtful, humorous, and touching. Where this book starts to go pear-shaped is in Thurston's advice either to other Black people or to non-Black (white) people. Thurston calls on some stereotypes (for example, the collective and homogeneous nature of all Black people, when he suggests that a Black person mu...more
Ivonne Rovira
Jan 06, 2013 Ivonne Rovira rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ivonne by: NPR's "Talk of the Nation"
Author Baratunde R. Thurston has penned a consistently humorous book. The book drips with irony, such as declaring November National American Indian Month and promoting the benefits for all races of the position of The Black Friend.

Thurston sprinkles How to be Black with laugh-out-loud lines like "Never underestimate the media's hunger for a rhyming Negro," media "blackness emergencies," and In fact, that entire chapter, "How to Speak for All Black People," was positively sublime! I'm a light-s...more
Howard
Firstly I think I should say that I would urge that you listen to the audio version as it is narrated by the author and has interviews with his close friends or ‘The Black Panel’ on what it is to be black. I found myself smiling and chuckling a lot, I found it poignant at times and eye opening but I have to say I didn’t find it as laugh out loud funny as most people did and I think that is down to me being English. I think a lot of the racial stereotypes and themes that were played on we just do...more
David Monroe
I recommend the audiobook. In it, Mr. Thurston wonderfully performs his book. Really that's sound advice for most books like this one. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Bill Cosby, the late great George Carlin -- listen to them perform their books!

Baratunde Thurston co-founded the black political blog, Jack and Jill Politics and served as Director of Digital for The Onion before launching the comedy/technology startup Cultivated Wit. Then-candidate Barack Obama called him "someone I need
...more
Linda Mitchell
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...more
Stephen Matlock
OK, so I didn't know what to expect from the book, but I have been following this guy on Twitter for a while. I didn't know also that he was the "Jack Turner" behind the "Jack & Jill Politics" blog that I followed. (I don't pay attention to all that much, I guess.)

But this guy's name kept popping up on my Twitter feeds--another guy I follow kept posting about him and recommending him, and then his book kept appearing as well, so I picked it up.

First off, the book cover is fairly aggressive....more
Marzie
This wry satire makes you think about race in a way that reveals one's own assumptions about blackness or whiteness. With a gentle humorous hand, Baratunde manages to make you look at the ways in which race- any race- affects so much of our world and society. This book isn't reverse racism or classicism but rather looks at the heart of what we, as human beings, see when we look at others and make assumptions.

Those curious about the enhanced Kindle version should know that you are mainly getting...more
CKE387
Witty, insightful - explores the ideas of blackness, how those ideas are changing, and how they differ from popular ideas promoted in mainstream media and often in the black community itself (intraracial stereotypes). The formation of the "black panel" including someone from Africa and a white panel member (equal opportunity) was well balanced.
Here are some interesting points that stood out:
How to be a Black Friend: "Is that your real hair?" "Can I touch it?" all while reaching to touch it regar...more
Dan
A mix of humorous and deadly serious musings on the amazing range of hardships and opportunities in being black in America. There are very funny moments in the book and a small handful of very poignant moments as well. I felt the book suffered from its format. Moreover, it really sometimes felt thin like a number of books that are twitter/internet phenomena rushed to print to capitalize on zeitgeist.
Marie
Well, after reading this book, I think I can definitely be black. I kid. Obviously, that’s not the real intention of this book. I heard Baratunde on NPR’s Ask Me Another and thought he was witty and interesting. Naturally, I wanted the book to further enjoy his hilarity, but I also thought it would be fun to be a preppy white girl sitting in an airport reading a book entitled How To Be Black (I was about to go on a long trip). How To Be Black is really about how to be you, embracing and extendin...more
Andee Browne
I'm actually surprised by how quick a read this was. I blew through this book in a little under four hours, most of which was punctuated by barks of laughter, wheezing, knowing smirks, and the occasional nod of "Yep, been there." And one instance of completely literally falling off my living room couch giggling like a hyena on Red Bull, but we'll get there in a minute.

Is this book hilarious? QUITE. But it's also a thought provoking account of A Black Experience. Not The Black Experience; one of...more
Kim Herrington
This book begins as memoir of growing up as an African American in Washington DC with a militant/hippie mom. Despite starting his life in a stereotypical urban neighborhood, Thurston attended Sidwell Friends, the private Quaker school the Obama girls attend now, went on to Harvard, and into the tech industry—not your stereotypical African American life as portrayed in mainstream media. Throughout the book, he calls on The Black Panel to weigh in on various topics. The Black Panel is a group of h...more
Elizabeth K.
It's not quite four stars, but I am feeling generous because this was a very welcome, brisk read after slogging through a couple of long novels recently.

It's very funny, of course (there was an Excel joke that had me snorting like a warthog), and smart. Thurston writes about his personal experience as a black man in America and uses it to illustrate points about some current issues related to race. He does an admirable job of outlining things that have happened to him personally and connecting t...more
Adam
Baratunde Thurston seems like a pretty cool guy. He has a fairly interesting story about how (basically
through his mother's determination) he grew up in "inner city*" Washington, DC, attended the Sidwell
Friend's school and Harvard, and then became a dominant internet personality. (He made his name on
the internet writing for the Onion, and Jack and Jill Politics and his twitter coverage of the 2012 republican national convention was hilarious.) I would love to get the chance to hang out
with h...more
Jennie
I got this book from the Public Library, but am going to purchase a copy (I hear there is an audiobook version read by the author that includes some "extras" from his panel of experts). "How to Be Black" forced me to do some self-exploration, both from reading the content of the book, and from the looks of people who either saw me reading it, or saw me post that I was reading it on this site or on Facebook. The content is not all humorous, and certainly underscores the value of education (kudos...more
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The Blerd Book Club: How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston 2 35 Jan 05, 2014 12:43PM  
Ninjas Be Reading: 5.29.12 1 10 May 29, 2012 09:31AM  
Ninjas Be Reading: 5.22.12 3 12 May 22, 2012 10:18PM  
Ninjas Be Reading: "How to Be Black" reading assignments 1 14 May 08, 2012 08:10PM  
  • Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What it Means to Be Black Now
  • Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness
  • Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America
  • Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America
  • Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America
  • The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood
  • Not a Genuine Black Man: Or, How I Claimed My Piece of Ground in the Lily-White Suburbs
  • Our Black Year: One Family's Quest to Buy Black in America's Racially Divided Economy
  • Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain
  • Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America
  • What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman's Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal
  • When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down
  • Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority
  • Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism (PB)
  • Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-AmericanFeminist Thought
  • The Grey Album: Music, Shadows, Lies
  • What′s the Matter with White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was
  • We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity
Baratunde Rafiq Thurston is an American comedian based in Boston and New York City. A politically-active, technology-loving comedian, he co-founded the black political blog, Jack and Jill Politics and serves as Director of Digital for "The Onion." Baratunde travels the world speaking and advising and performs standup regularly in NYC. He resides in Brooklyn, lives on Twitter and has over 30 years...more
More about Baratunde R. Thurston...
Better Than Crying: Poking Fun at Politics, the Press & Pop Culture

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“If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being black-friendless, you can either go to the nearest black church and strike up a conversation, or just fire up Facebook, search for “black people,” and start clicking “Add Friend” on the names in the resulting lists. Technology is amazing and quite a time-saver.” 7 likes
“Depending on your own background and life experiences, this may or may not be new to you, but after an eight-to-twelve-hour day, white office workers often don't feel like they've spent enough time with each other. Therefore, they are prone to organizing pseudo-official company activities such as bowling or happy hour.” 4 likes
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