Book Review: How To Be Black

How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

Note: I wrote this review a few months ago on my personal blog, Nichelle Stephens, and it makes sense to crosspost here. By the way, How To Be Black is now a New York Times bestseller.

The first time I met Baratunde Thurston was back in 2008.  I think I was invited by Liza Sabater and/orTwanna Hines to have  drinks at a bar in the East Village.  It was an impromptu Black blogger meetup.  I knew he did stand-up comedy, worked at Onion, and most notably was the co-founder of the blog Jack & Jill Politics. Soon after meeting Baratunde, he was popping up everywhere–on my Twitter feed, at parties, and at SXSW.

About two weeks ago, I got a galley copy of Baratunde’s book, How To Be Black, from my friend Rachel. I started reading it immediately.  One of the added benefits of reading How To Be Black in public is the looks that you get when people see the book cover. I can relate to so much of the content in the book, especially the chapters on “How To The Black Friend” and “How To Be The Black Employee”.

The book is part about being black, and  part memoir.  I kinda wish there was more memoir.  I am left wondering how did Baratunde make the leap from being a Harvard grad to being a stand-up comedian.  It would be nice to offer more insight on being the Black comedian.  As someone who worked tangentially in stand-up comedy, I know there’s a dirty underbelly to comedy especially when it comes to getting booked and getting paid.  When I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants, I wanted her to share more of the struggle of being a woman in comedy, and Baratunde could have added more as well.  Not as a woman, but as a Black man.  To be fair, I am a wee bit of a comedy geek, and not every reader wants to know how the hot link sausages are made.  Also, it would be a bonus to have a chapter on “How To Be The Black Couple”, but Baratunde is NOT Steve Harvey. Thank God!

How To Be Black is hilarious and very insightful. I highly recommend reading the book if you are Black.  I also recommend reading the book if you are White, but you may want to read it on your Kindle so as to not draw unwanted attention to yourself. :)


I just checked on Amazon, and the book is $12.99 on Kindle and $14.40 Hardcover.  Advantage: People with a  Kindle.

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