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How to Be Black

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  7,436 ratings  ·  1,083 reviews
Baratunde Thurston shares his 30-plus years of expertise in being black, with helpful essays like “How to Be the Black Friend,” “How to Speak for All Black People,” “How To Celebrate Black History Month,” and more, in this satirical guide to race issues—written for black people and those who love them. Audacious, cunning, and razor-sharp, How to Be Black exposes the mass-m ...more
Hardcover, 254 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by HarperCollins
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Brenda McCloud 18-35 years old. Helps African Americans how to enter the corporate world. It is an excellent read for any race or culture to better understand the Af…more18-35 years old. Helps African Americans how to enter the corporate world. It is an excellent read for any race or culture to better understand the African American situation and how to advance in the corporate world or any employment. Very insightful.(less)

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  7,436 ratings  ·  1,083 reviews


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Cinnamon
Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
(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
Raymond
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I originally read this laugh out loud book almost six years ago and loved it. It spoke to me then and it spoke to me again now. It should be read by every black person whoever felt like they weren't black enough. It also should be read by non-black people who have misconceptions on what and how "all" black people think and behave. Thurston's book teaches the reader that there is more than one way to be black. He knows this because he was the child of a woman who exposed him to activities that we ...more
Jenna
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, race, wake-up
Funny and smart, in How to Be Black Baratunde Thurston takes a serious and not-at-all-funny subject -- racism in America-- and presents it in a light-hearted and satirical manner.   I listened to the audio version of this book, read by Mr. Thurston himself, and I'm sure that added to my enjoyment of the book as his sarcasm shines through brilliantly. 

I don't usually listen to books because I don't process audio well; my brain needs to see the words printed on paper or screen in order to fully ab
...more
Julie Ehlers
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funny
I bought this because whenever I was in the bookstore, I would pick it up, flip through it, and land on something that made me laugh out loud. If that happens enough times, you eventually realize you and a book are meant to spend quality time together. I think Thurston's goal with How to Be Black was threefold: (1) to write a memoir of his own life; (2) to make the reader laugh; (3) to teach the reader a thing or two about race in America. At all three things he succeeds. I definitely laughed qu ...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
Book Riot Community
This is one of the funniest autobio-type books I’ve ever read. Thurston takes a satirical approach to his “guide” based on his personal experiences, but the book is really more than that. There’s some excellent (and educational!) commentary in there not just from the author, but from an actual panel of folks who come from various backgrounds, both culturally and professionally. It’s broken up into short chunks based on various issues or stages of his life, and questions about when and how one be ...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. It m
...more
April
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Shamus McCarty
Dec 18, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Agnė
Dec 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people interested in racial issues in America
Recommended to Agnė by: Read and Meet Book Group
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

“How to Be Black” by Baratunde Thurston is part memoir, part humorous social commentary on race and identity related issues in America. Despite being raised by a Pan-African single mother in the inner city of Washington, DC during the drug wars, Thurston not only stayed out of trouble but also graduated from a private, primarily white Sidwell Friends School and later form Harvard University. Along the stories about the origins of his name, the tofu-eating hippie of a mother and
...more
Tatiana
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: worldsaving, memoir
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
Megan
Feb 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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
Todd N
Apr 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle
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
Kathleen
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Arlene
I had this both in physical format and in audiobook form, and I think it is best listen to than read. Mainly because you get a better sense of who Baratunde Thurson is and the people on his Black Panel who narrate their parts in the book about what is to be black, grow up black, see blackness in America and what can come from it. There were moments when I gave a good laugh, the learning to swim part in particular, but all in all it was just okay. Being from DC myself and going to college on the ...more
Wiebke (1book1review)
This was highly informative, easy to understand and funny. What more can you want from a non-fiction than to actually come away educated and more understanding of others?

Listening to the audiobook was a good decision, as I now know how to pronounce his name and also heard all the original recordings of the people he interviewed. Very well produced.

This is for everyone who wants to learn more about what it means to be black in the USA.
Annie
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Snarky, witty, and all-around entertaining. Also thought-provoking, nuance-ridden, and bitingly direct. A definite to-read, even if (especially if) you aren't black.

Baratunde is fucking hilarious and I could listen to him talk forever.
Taryn
Jan 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back in January, I got bitten by the New Year's Resolution bug and decided to try jogging. It was one of those decisions made in a hasty blur of good intentions, and in stubborn denial of all existing evidence against it. Evidence like the fact that running makes me furious, and I hate it.

Not to toot my own horn, but I actually stuck with it for about two weeks. What ended my short-lived attempt at fitness glory? I ran a full mile without stopping, promptly hurt my ankle, and limped my way back
...more
Vanessa
Dec 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Funny, insightful, entertaining, sweet. Part memoir, part meditation on blackness in America. I really enjoyed everyone on the Blackness Panel, too.

Minus one star because he didn't take me on a second date.
Gretchen Rubin
A book that manages to be laugh-out-loud funny while exploring very serious issues. After I finished it, I immediately subscribed to Thurston's six-episode podcast "We're Having a Moment" and his weekly email. Plus he just launched a new podcast, "How to Citizen with Baratunde."
Hilary
Feb 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: audible, audio, fresh-air
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
Ivonne Rovira
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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-
...more
Lizzie
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
hayden
Mar 04, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Linda
What a ridiculous name! It didn’t make me want to read the book, but at least it got my attention. I purchased this book as part of a bundle that I bought during a Black History Month sale (for which I was called out on in the first chapter). I uploaded it to my kindle with little hope that I would get through the first chapter.

It turned out that I did enjoy it. It is a collection of stand-alone essays addressing issues of middle-class African-American life. The essays are written chronologicall
...more
Tess
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Byron
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
A sort of hybrid memoir/comedy book that's not very good as either a memoir or a comedy book. The autobiographical stuff isn't candid enough, and the SWPL-like comedy stuff isn't funny enough. The guy has an interesting enough story: his father was killed trying to cop some crack back in like '86, his mom sounds just plain crazy, he grew up in an unfortunate neighborhood, he went to the same private school in DC as Chelsea Clinton, he went to Harvard, he's been on TV and worked for The Onion, so ...more
Erik
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
I wont be able to give this full justice of a review right now, but basically the scope is too ambitious for the execution - this book tries to be three books: a memoir/autobiography, a political polemic, and the titled "how to be black". Ultimately its spread too thin and the humor is relegated to 1/3 of the book. It never made me laugh at loud but it was amusing and smirk-worthy at times. But i wouldnt believe this guy works at the Onion based upon this book.

the book also plays it safe - the
...more
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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

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