How To Be Black

Book Reviews

“Part autobiography, part stand-up routine, part contemporary political analysis, and astute all over, ‘How to Be Black’ might do more to expose and explore the shifting dynamics of race in America than all the Pew data of the past decade. Reading this book made me both laugh and weep with poignant recognition. Baratunde Thurston has given us a hysterical, irreverent exploration of one of America’s most painful and enduring issues. He captures the alchemy of familial narratives, community socialization, and individual volition that makes blackness a complex performance of the self. ‘How to be Black’ is the must read text of the so-called post-racial moment.”
- Melissa Harris-Perry, contributing analyst for MSNBC and columnist for THE NATION

"As a black woman, this book helped me realize I’m actually a white man."
- Patton Oswalt, author of Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

"The funniest black guy on the Internet has written the definitive manual on how to make it in post-racial America as a member of a despised minority group. ‘How to be Black’ is guaranteed to infuriate all those poor, deluded souls, both black and white, who shuffle through life without ever managing to ‘see color’ (February)."
Tony Norman, writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Baratunde, The Onion’s director of digital and cofounder of Jack & Jill Politics, offers a hilarious look at the complexities of contemporary racial politics and personal identity…[W]ith poignancy and humor…[h]e takes on the challenges of how to speak for every black person in the nation, how to measure degrees of blackness, how to take a break from it all."
- Booklist

"In this hilarious blend of razor-sharp satire and memoir, Onion Director of Digital and cofounder of the Jack & Jill Politics blog Thurston muses on how, generally, to be black in today’s ever-changing world. He’s quick to point out that his book is not a magic potion that will make readers instantly black (it is not How to Become a Black Person If You Are Not Already Black). Instructive chapters include “How to Be The Black Friend” and its corollaries, “How to Speak for All Black People” and “How to Be The Black Employee.” Thurston’s life was shaped by his mother, a force of nature who instilled in him a love of camping and bicycling, along with a fiercely radical spirit. As a teen, he participated in the Ankobia program in D.C. taught by Pan-African black American activists. This same woman also enrolled him in the prestigious Sidwell Friends school (home to Chelsea Clinton and President Obama’s daughters) and cheered at his Harvard graduation. In order to get a fuller picture of blackness in America today, Thurston assembles “The Black Panel,” consisting of artists and stand-up comedians who address race in their work. Questions he poses to the panel include when the members first realized they were black (most were very young), if they ever wished not to black (very few did), and what they thought of the idea of “post-racial America.” Using his own story and humor, Thurston demonstrates that the best way to “be” anything is to simply be yourself.
- Publishers Weekly

“If you don’t buy this book, you’re a racist.”
- Baratunde Thurston, author of How To Be Black