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How to Be Black

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  6,768 ratings  ·  998 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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3.90  · 
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 ·  6,768 ratings  ·  998 reviews

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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Megan Hicks
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
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.
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

“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
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.
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, worldsaving
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
Taryn Pierson
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
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
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.
Feb 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, audible, 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-
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for anyone who is black, wants to be black, is unsure if they are black, knows at least one black person, thinks they know black people, or simply just has heard of black people. Baratunde spits the real so fast and funny that I sometimes had to gasp that someone had put the hard truth down in black and white without the paper burning up! I swear I am going to keep the book at my desk just to revisit the How to Be The Black Employee chapter and remind myself ...more
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
5 stars is not enough
Nazarene Static
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I actually picked this book up last year to read it, and I started to read it but then I got China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan and betrayed my blackness by chucking this to the side.


How to Be Black is an autobiographic satire. Baratunde Thurston regales readers with hilarious anecdotes about his childhood and growing up black. He breaks down stereotypes of African Americans and how this affects their relationship with their white counter parts as well as their social identities. It sounds lik
Feb 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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Beauty and the Book: * How to Be Black OFFICIAL THREAD DISCUSSION 1 12 Feb 04, 2015 03:31PM  
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 11 May 29, 2012 09:31AM  
Ninjas Be Reading: 5.22.12 3 16 May 22, 2012 10:18PM  
Ninjas Be Reading: "How to Be Black" reading assignments 1 18 May 08, 2012 08:10PM  

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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
“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.” 8 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.” 6 likes
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