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Not a Genuine Black Man: Or, How I Claimed My Piece of Ground in the Lily-White Suburbs

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  285 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Based on the longest-running one-man show in San Francisco history--now coming to Off-Broadway--a hilarious, poignant, and disarming memoir of growing up black in an all-white suburb In 1972, when Brian Copeland was eight, his family moved from Oakland to San Leandro, California, hoping for a better life. At the time, San Leandro was 99.4 percent white, known nationwide as ...more
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2006)
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Roderic Moore
This book has special relevance to me since my wife and I live in San Lorenzo adjacent to San Leandro and less than a mile from where most of the events in this book took place. My wife grew up in San Leandro and she actually hired Brian at a retail shop which she was managing when he was about 18 years old. So, this book was read by myself with a lesser degree of seperation than perhaps many of its readers. Having said that, this made the book all that more powerful, and literally and figurativ ...more
Margaret
Reading this book was very engaging and a very quick read, it carries you along into Mr. Copeland's life and experiences. I loved the honestly, perspective and especially the humor. The initial outline of the back to back chapters alternates back to his childhood and then forward to his adult life was spot-on. I think it gave the entire book momentum and an unique perspective. Race, culture and prejudice has always been an interest of mine and this is one of my favorites, in short, an awesome re ...more
Sean
Have you ever lived as the minority? Wheter its skin color, height or size? Brian Copeland faced this first hand when he and his family (african american) moved to San Leandro, a place that is 99.99% white.
Not a Genuine Black Man "My life as an outsider" takes us on trip throught th life of Brian Copeland and his kind of flip flopped family. Their struggles, hardships, and success stories while living in a town that rejeceted them.This book has constant themes of raciscm, retalliation, and ident
...more
Dayspring
Like most good comedians, Copeland knows how to weave together comedy and tragedy. This results in a memoir that is both hilariously entertaining and also a painful window into post-civil rights era racism in the U.S.

On a totally random note, I appreciated that Copeland only mentioned in passing his divorce and never disparaged his first wife. Too many memoirs (especially "celebrity" memoirs) seem to be used as an excuse to throw friends/family/colleagues under the bus. Copeland never does this
...more
Linda
Excellent depiction of life growing up as a black male in a white suburb in the 1980's. Brian Copeland adds humor and warmth to the frustrations (an understatement, yes) in growing up under covert and overt racial discrimination in various aspects of life--Catholic school, housing, walking down the street, boy scouts, interaction with law enforcement, and in making friends. The strength of this book is that it is real, not just a bunch of statistics and generalizations, so the reader can see the ...more
Lena
My sister, a UC Berkeley pre-law student, recommended this book to me after one of her courses led her to Copeland's play and a book signing where she met him and spoke with him of our father- his life, and the perspective we have as his daughters. A short conversation with Brian had her enthused and more deeply invested in her history, our fathers history, and the histories of other black families in her surroundings. She insisted I read the book, and once I picked it up I didn't put it down un ...more
William
This is one hell of a book. It should always be read as a companion piece to James Loewens "Sundown Towns". It is the micro, Brian Copeland's story of growing up as the only Black in a white Sundown Town, to Loewens macro study. It is nothing at all like what I expected. I thought I was going to get a comedy routine, (the author makes his living as a comedian) but instead got a tale of heartbreak, brutality, inhumanity, and racial bigotry only slightly leavened by humor. The book is sometimes ma ...more
Dollie
I am not a fast reader but I ended up powering through this book in a couple of days. Brian Copeland has an important story to tell and he does it pretty well! It is heart wrenching to read what he had to deal with at such a young age but it is ultimately a tale of triumph. One of the reasons I have enjoyed life in Northern CA is the diversity and tolerance I perceived. He serves us well by educating us that bigotry and racism can and does happen anywhere and everywhere. Tying his story to his a ...more
Rochelle
As I said in one of my status updates, everyone should read this book. He explores with humor, raw honesty, and genuine curiosity the racial prejudice he experienced growing up in San Leandro, and encounters today. It is a book that will really debunk some of the misconception about how liberal California is with respect to race, and will highlight how racism is as prevalent here as anywhere else in the country. Frankly, the history of deliberate racial segregation instituted and enforced by the ...more
Sara
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melanie
Wow. This is quite a book. It had me laugh out loud and tear up as well. Brian Copeland's childhood and youth is unimaginable, and the way to adulthood is quite a rocky road. I was impressed by his relative neutral tone of voice, which allows for the reader to develop an own reaction to the content. The injustice endured, narrated matter-of-factually, just appears the more monstrous and arbitrary this way. The book got me thinking about fitting in and being an outsider and how this must be one o ...more
Yumiko Christine
Both hilarious and poignant, as it is written by a comedian who has attempted suicide and addressed firsthand the tragic difficulties of being black in a white world.
Excellent book, highly recommended.

As a San Francisco bay area resident (but not for that long), it was also incredulous/interesting to read about this history of San Leandro of which I had no idea.
From Wikipedia,
San Leandro was an 86.4% white-non Hispanic community according to the 1970 census. And in 1960 census, San Leandro was
...more
Anne-Michelle
I was very impressed by the depth of this book, especially considering it was written from a comedian and humor was present throughout, which kept it very entertaining and still got down deep inside of him. I've ready other first-person narratives about the suppression of blacks, and I've never identified with the author like I did with Brian Copeland. He gave personal, private examples of bigotry and racism in today's society -- a world that I actually grew up in and can relate to. His issues w ...more
Joy
Interesting memoir by Bay Aria comedian/tv personality Brian Copeland. Copeland's family was the first African-American family to move into San Leandro, a suburb just outside Oakland where a concerted effort by the local realtors had kept the neighborhoods completely white. The chapters about his childhood are interwoven with scenes from his adulthood, where he struggles with identity issues and depression. Copeland raises some painful questions about cultural authenticity--hence the title--thou ...more
Shirleen
This book has been chosen as the Silicon Valley book read for 2009. I went to hear this author speak and he has a very compelling story of his life growing up in the San Leandro, a city at that time that was 99.99% White and was considered one of the most racist cities in the nation in the 1970's. He went through a lot, overcame a lot, and emerged a stronger more understanding person. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the prejudices that African Americans (and other minoritie ...more
Jessica
While I found the author’s voice to be very humorous and indeed I did find myself laughing out loud quite a bit, I had issues with the continuity of the story as a whole. I was having trouble figuring out what the driving force of his memoir was. His experience with racism growing up, his mom’s death, suicide, abuse from his father, reverse racism, abandonment issues. His subject matter was a little scattered. He was focusing on too many subjects instead of identifying a main point he was trying ...more
Sean
Brian Copeland's one-man show of the same name had a 2 year run in San Francisco, then moved to New York off Broadway. With wit, wisdom and sincerity, Copeland, a comedian and radio talk show host, shares his story of growing up as an African-American boy in San Leandro, Califronia, a city once nationally known as one of the "whitest" suburbs in the nation. Copeland weaves the history of the civil rights struggle in this town with his own struggles of love and abuse within his family, with his m ...more
Crystal
This is the book that all of Santa Clara County (Bay Area) is reading for 2009. There have been multiple events around this. Brian Copeland was my favorite on Channel 2 (KTVU) news back in the 90s. Who knew that he hated the job, was in pain, and even tried to commit suicide. This book is funny and at times heartbreaking. I had no idea that the Bay Area was so segregated in the 70s. It's an important read. It was particularly interesting to read right after I finished Barack Obama's Dreams From ...more
Rachel
Copeland is a local famous guy with his own radio show. After talking with his sister for a newspaper story and my colleague seemed to be regularly writing stories about him in San Leandro coverage, I had to check him out. If you missed his one-man show, this book is also a cool read on local history. His family went through a lot as the first black family to racially integrate the then lily-white San Leandro. Our cities are still very segregated but the bravery of Brian, his mother and grandmot ...more
Veronica
Very good book. Ever been called a coconut, twinkie, orep etc? This book is a really heartfelt and at many times totally gut wrenching exploration of what it really means to be a "genuine" black person, or mexican or chinese.... It made me sad at times because he really went through some tough stuff, but I totally recommend it. Cant wait till the book club meeting when I get to discuss it with all the white older women in the group ( I am the only non-white person in the group and the only one y ...more
Nancy
Brian pulls us into his life as the outside, hated punching-bag child and as a man who finally hits the wall via depression. I'm not quite sure how he is such a decent human being after such treatment--he certainly didn't learn it from his abusive, negligent father or the string of unbelievably cruel adults he encountered. What I did gain from Brian's book is that how individuals treat and interact with others is incredibly important. Thank goodness there were a few good and decent people in his ...more
Janaina
It was just amazing how Copeland tells his own story as a black guy that suffered all the prejudices since he was a kid. The book is a good source of knowledge of how the life was for black people in the 60's to 70's in a small town, San Leandro - San Francisco Bay Area. I strongly recommend this book because the way it was written, because of the presence of Copeland's humor all trough this book and also because the emotional moments of a true story that really touched me.
Leah
It shocks me to hear about the racism that stills exists in my area of the world. Somehow I always think the worst of it passed before I was born and occurred in other parts of the U.S. This is a funny/sad/sometimes shocking andvery personal account of this man's experiences growing up black in a white and often racist community in the Bay Area and the damage done to him and how he found some healing. I was surprised to find out he still lives there!
21stcenturymom
This book is sad but very good. It is the real account of the life of Brian Copeland who grew up in a white suburb that was dedicated to keeping black folk living outside of its borders. He was put in the back of a police cruiser and taken home at the age of 8 as he was on the way to the park to play and it didn't get much better than that through his whole life.

He's a survivor, though and the book is both touching and insightful.
Cindy
Brian Copeland's writing is easy to read and full of humor. I like that. Before the half-way mark I got weary of the depressing stories and considered not finishing it. Fortunately I did read it all so I learned about courage, resilience and "keep on keeping on".

This is our monthly book at the Milpitas Library Book Club and the author will speak at our meeting tonight. Looking forward to it!
Charlotte
Awesome. Funny and shocking - a little piece of local shame and victory. Highly convicting without descending into lecturing, Copeland lays out his childhood experience and lets the reader decide how to feel about them. He's funny enough that I found myself laughing, even as my brain yelled "Hey! That's not funny; it's horrible.", and his humor made the shockingly serious moments even more effective.
Rosh
Its a story on racism in United States... the author's true story, based in the East Bay, California. Its a well written book with a lot of humor, at the same time it reaches your heart.

There are some stories of discrimination that a lot of people can relate to. Like the time BC talks about service at a restaurant .... "Is it just bad service or is it me." ...
Stephanie
A poignant yet humorous memoir from a boy whose family was one of the first black families to move into all-white San Leandro (near Oakland). It's hard to believe that he and his family were treated so awfully right here in the Bay Area as recently as the seventies. I also saw Brian Copeland perform his one-man show of the same name, which was amazing as well.
Jamie
Nov 03, 2007 Jamie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everybody
An excellent book. Heartwarming and heartwrenching at times, it is Brian Copeland's tale of growing up in my hometown, San Leandro, CA as an outcast, I guess you could say. After reading this I had an understanding of why my father whispered to me "there's a black family there now" after moving out of the house I grew up in.
Stacy
Probably the funniest book you'll read about racism that still retains the gravity.

I think this book will have the biggest emotional impact on people who a) already kinda knew who Brian Copeland is because b) they've lived in the Bay Area, and thus, also have first-hand knowledge of the East Bay, where the book is set.
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