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Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man's Education
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Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man's Education

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  2,216 ratings  ·  361 reviews
Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching is an account of how, politically and culturally, the existing script for black manhood has been rewritten for the millennial generation. Young men of this age have watched as Barack Obama was elected president but have also witnessed the deaths of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, and so many other young b ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by Bold Type Books
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Bethany Fair
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Having been born the same year as Mychal Denzel Smith - coming of age during the delusional post-Reagan 90s during which nearly everyone tried to teach us that sexism and racism were problems only of the past - I too share Smith's inclination towards borderline obnoxious activism. When we were too young to know better, we were unknowingly guided into an apathetic posture towards issues of discrimination that were mostly swept under the rug but have recently come back into the public eye with fre ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Yanira Ramirez
I first learned about this book from Yanira Ramirez, my guest on Episode 070 of the Reading Envy Podcast. It felt like an important book that I never heard about, so I was so glad she brought it to my attention. I ended up buying it from Audible during one of their BOGO deals. The audio was great, but not read by the author, which I found myself wishing for.

Mychal Denzel Smith reflects on his life, specifically as a young black man. He looks at Obama and his presidency, and the pressure to be t
An unexpected pleasure. I really enjoyed looking through the eyes of a young black man at the world we have here. A searing look at how society views black men and how they view themselves. Cynical yet self-aware and optimistic.

4++ Stars

Listened to the Audiobook. The narration by Kevin Free in my view was perfect for this book.
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am almost exactly the same age as Mychal Denzel Smith, so reading his reflections on learning how to be a black man in America was like stepping into an alternate reality where the same people and events I remember from my childhood and adolescence are present and recognizable, but cast in a different light. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a stunning demonstration of how limited my own viewpoint is, and that revelation alone makes reading his book worth it.

Take Kanye West, for example
Sarah Jaffe
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I whipped through this in a day--Mychal's writing is so beautiful, it was hard to put it down. ...more
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: important
There are clear parallels between Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching and Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me: they're both works by young black men, exploring their existence in a hostile country, and they touch upon sometimes similar themes, including the importance of struggle and the massive unseen and largely unacknowledged mental and physical costs of simply existing as a black man in America. That said, however, their voices are completely different, and Smith engages in im ...more
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching was a great book. It was very well-written and touches on a lot of current, relevant, and frustrating topics. Mychal Smith is a year older than me and as a millennial, I can related to some of the topics he writes about. I won’t pretend that I fully understand or could understand some of the others. He discusses race, class, and privilege. Smith is a talented writer, and I found myself saving numerous quotes throughout the book (a couple faves below). ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was fire.

I read this in one sitting and to say I merely enjoyed it is an understatement. It certainly reminded me of a millennial version of Ta-Nehisi Coates' award winning Between the World and Me. Smith's writing is sharp, intellectual, and urgent. For the rest of this review and to see an a video clip of Mychal Denzel Smith speaking about this book click here.
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
The introduction recounts the Trayvon Martin tragedy and as Mychal Denzel Smith laments the fact that Trayvon was deprived of the chance to grow, it lead him to this seminal question. "I asked myself: How did you learn to be a black man?" And so this book is his attempt to answer that question while dealing with the general but including the specifics from his own life journey.

This makes the book part memoir, part sociopolitical inquiry. Invisible Man,Got The Whole World Watching is the latest
Sidik Fofana
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
SIX WORD REVIEW: Thirty colored tumultuous years, eloquently explained.
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I can't remember the last time I devoured a book like this one. Probably because despite the difference in gender, Mychal Denzel Smith spoke so perfectly to me and my own struggles. In his candid, raw, and honest accounting of his short life as a young black man thus far, I saw my brother, my uncle, my absent father, my husband, and countless other men I know. But I also saw myself.

Lots of empty references to the millennial generation tend to overlook race, thereby ignoring the specific struggl
Tom Jorgenson
Aug 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book doesn't just tackle race; it tackles race in the context of feminism, gay rights, and mental health awareness. Smith basically says that all of these things exist in conversation with one another, and racism will not end until women and gay people and people with mental health issues have an equal place in society and are allowed to simply be themselves. This necessarily involves the following: "True self-reflection won't only result in an acceptance that continues to separate. It ...more
Rachel León
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, read-in-2017, reread
(4.5 stars, rounded up because this book is essential and desperately needed)

This book is Smith's examination of how he learned to be a black man. The book felt like a collection of essays rather than a memoir. Regardless of what you call it, it's fantastic and certainly worth reading. Smith talks about violence facing black men (with examples from recent history such as Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant), mental illness, feminism, the discrimination the LBGTQ community faces, Obama's presidency, a
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the very reason I love non-fiction. I will be getting this book for my sons, all three of them. I will ask them to NOT DISRESPECT ME BY NOT READING IT. LOL. This should be required reading for college freshman. I sat in my chair for hours. Revisit and discuss often. Thank You Mr. Smith.
Mar 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
to be a writer is to bear witness; to be a black writer is to bear witness to tragedy. in order to be honest and good, this is something i can't escape.
the debut book from knobler fellow and nation writer mychal denzel smith, invisible man, got the whole world watching, is a personal and political coming-of-age that melds candid detail with trenchant analysis. taking its title from a mos def lyric, smith's book shares a revealing and self-aware recap of his development as a young black mill
I initially was comparing this book to Ta-Nehisi Coates' work, but that's unfair. Coates writes from a perspective of a parent. Mychal is the voice of millennials. Coates is about the next generation Mychal is the next generation, taking power now.

This is a short book. Nothing in it is revolutionary, if you are well versed in the racist history of America and all the ways we still perpetrate violence on blacks (and people of color in general).

But, it is also a valuable story that is authentica
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This disappointed me. It’s not really a memoir – which is probably for the best; the author wrote it at age 29 and his life to that point doesn’t sound especially remarkable – but instead it’s a 220-page op-ed piece without a single citation. It’s all the author’s opinions about various contemporary events and social justice issues, including lengthy descriptions of news and pop cultural events, including entire segments of the Dave Chappelle Show, excerpts from Obama’s speeches, descriptions of ...more
**A disclaimer: I'm a 60-something white woman. Many of his references to black cultural experiences (particularly the comedians, rap, and hip-hop artists discussed in this book) are totally foreign to me. While I recognized the names of artists, I'm totally unfamiliar with their work. That may have influenced my impressions and understandings.**

This book is another addition to the recent literature in which black men explore what it means to be black in America today. Like Ta-Nahisi Coates, My
Dana DesJardins
Jul 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a hasty, angry, relevant, potentially provocative book. Smith parses how racism maps onto intersectionality, by charting his personal journey from angry kid through wanna-be revolutionary to struggles with depression. (Smith is only 29.) He locates his interrogation of how to build an undamaged, male, black personhood in between the Obama presidency and Trayvon Martin's death, two bookends of systemic racism. He begins by describing Trayvon's murder through Zimmerman's eyes, an audacious ...more
Hilary Martin
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: required-reading
I absolutely loved this book and recommend it to everyone. Smith brings a fresh perspective to the subjects of racism, he talks about sexism, homophobia, mental health and other issues. I love his youthful rage and hope he keeps it.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Review to come
Maya Smart
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Necessary and audacious, Mychal Denzel Smith’s assured debut, Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching, fuses memoir and cultural criticism to ponder an often-neglected question: How did you learn to be a black man?

The way he scrutinizes the origin of his beliefs about black identity and masculinity is revelatory–and instructive. He mines his personal history as an Obama-era black millennial in the service of a larger vision: social transformation through personal awakening.

As he traces his o
Laura Peña
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
I read this because the title lead me to think it was going to be Invisible Man Spawn, which it absolutely was not. There was no satirical zany edginess whatsoever (not that every book alive needs to be like that, but the back of the book literally said "if Ralph Ellison had twitter" to which I said sign me up!) I only finished it bc I always fall into the sunk cost fallacy.

This is presented as a memoir, but I think it would have been wayyyyyy better to present it as an essay collection. Smith
Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a fascinating book. Totally brilliant and often surprising. I will admit to occasionally getting impatient with in-depth discussions of parts of pop culture that I know nothing about, but I would remind myself that the book wasn't written for me. The author is such an insightful thinker and writer. He's the kind of person I wish I could vote for as a leader, but sadly he's probably too radical (I mean that in a good way) to get anywhere in American electoral politics. Still, I hope peo ...more
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I don’t think I have ever read such a complete, hard, honest, brilliant look at racism, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, classism, etc. – how they came to be and how they are perpetuated. This book is filling the world with YES! I recommend this book to EVERYONE.
chantel nouseforaname
Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching was a un-unique, unique read. I waited for the feminist perspective I read about on the book jacket to arrive for some time - and it did, 100+ pages in. I thought Smith had some incredibly powerful and spot-on points to share - especially expounding on James Baldwin and the use of the ideology behind America's "nigger" and how America has this need to use that established, racist framework and ideology to subjugate and persist.

I also thought that his p
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Gerry by: Hachette Book Club Brunch 2019
This memoir/reflection of a young black man on growing up in present day America was impressive for the quality of the writing and for the clear-minded and honest introspection that allowed Smith to examine closely the influences, both positive and negative, that helped him develop from boy to man. I look forward to reading more of his work in the future. Highly recommended!
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
3 stars for the first half, and 5 for the second.
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you’re born a middle-class black boy in America, and you grow up to be a black man in America, what do you learn about who you should be and how you should live? What does Dave Chappelle teach you? How about the presidency of Barack Obama, or your first college professor, or your patient feminist girlfriend, or the media narratives of each victim of police violence, or the basketball stars you see on tv?

This was such an honest, generous attempt to answer those questions, and an attempt to le
Jon Zuckerman
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is unbelievably important and has honestly changed the way I think about a lot of things in life. For those of us around the same age, this provides an alternative viewpoint of our childhood from a completely different perspective. It's beautifully deconstructed even if concrete answers aren't provided. Please, please read it. ...more
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