#HowToBeBlack – Baratunde Thurston

This book will make you laugh. A lot. This is a guarantee. So if you want to laugh, buy this book. Or the ebook. Simple.

What isn’t quite as simple are the ideas explored in this book. It looks at the notion of ‘blackness’ and how these perceptions are formed. These concepts are essentially rooted in stereotypes (mostly negative), and ‘are limiting and simply inadequate to the task of capturing the reality of blackness. The ideas of blackness that make it into mainstream thought exclude too much of the full range of who black people are.’

For someone who doesn’t necessarily fit into this stereotypical mould, this book was comforting as I’ve grown up with my ‘authentic blackness’ constantly being questioned. I wrote about my experiences on the How To Be Black blog a few weeks ago, check it out here.

Through reading this book, I re-evaluated my sense of self and grew more comfortable with the notion of creating one’s own identity. Don’t get me wrong, this book is very much tongue in cheek and effing hilarious, but ultimately, it goes one step further and looks at what it means to be an individual, irrespective of your race. I believe Derrick Ashong, (musician, entrepreneur, TV host), explains this perfectly:

“People will always find ways to determine who is in and a part of us, and who’s an outsider. And part of that is because…I define me to some degree in the context of you. I’m not just me existing in the world. I am, in part, me because I’m not you. We are part we because we’re not y’all.”

And failing that, you can always read this book to learn how to be the Black Friend, how to speak for all Black People, how to be the Black Employee, and of course, how to be the Angry Negro. Skills that are important for everyone to have.

And p.s., this book is for all races.

If you’ve read this book, get involved in the conversation! Let me know what you learnt (if anything) from reading it, or even just share your experiences with identity (we all have a story!). Go to http://howtobeblack.me/ for more.

 

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Visiting Jennifer Egan’s ‘Goon Squad’.

You know a book is good when you’re asked to describe it and the first words that come out of your mouth are ‘I can’t even tell you what it’s about…’ This is precisely how I’ve been responding to questions about Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’.

do know how to construct a basic sentence (more or less), but in my defence, even the publishers (Corsair, Constable & Robinson) seemed to have a hard time explaining. This brings me to Exhibit A, the book’s blurb (which is vague at best):

“…vividly captures the moments where lives interact, and where fortunes ebb and flow. Egan depicts […] the sad consequences for those who couldn’t fake it during their wild youth – madness, suicide or prison – in this captivating, wryly humorous story of temptation and loss.”

Yeah. What did I say?

The book is split into 13 chapters, each dedicated to a single character. These characters are so random, and their lives equally so, yet the subtle way in which Egan links one to the other is so precise, so surprising, so utterly perfect.

You move from the life of a record producer with no sex drive, to a kleptomaniac half-heartedly seeking help, to that of a dictator’s publicist etc. You can’t make this stuff up. The book is funny; there’s no doubt about it, but it’s a dark humour that underlines the undeniable pathos of the characters’ lives. It’s so bizarre, yet so real.

I highly recommend this, if only to hear you say to someone else ‘I can’t even tell you what it’s about.’

If you’ve read this already, let me know what you thought! Only if you can articulate this of course! haha

The Goon Squad

The Goon Squad