You can't read this book and not learn something. Baratunde Thurston informs his non-Black reader that Black people are not all alike. Thurston also advises his Black reader how to best portray some of the country's best (worst) Black stereotypes, and then helps his ____ (fill in blank with the appropriate race/ethnicity) how to distinguish them.
Thurston's book is a mixture of autobiography, cultural observation and criticism, and comedy. While the title may scare off both racists and people who don't know that the book is supposed to be funny, the book is for everyone with a sense of humor who isn't afraid of the discussion of race from the distinctive perspectives of his Black panel and the one White Canadian guest on that panel. I emphasize that this is Thurston's experience and the description of "blackness" from the perspective of the individuals that make up his panel because what I believe we are supposed to get from this book, all of us, is that our ethnicity/skin color/ race does not determine who we are as individuals. This is a book for Black people who may be afraid to admit they are different and may doubt their blackness, as much as it is for the militant who is concerned that s/he needs to write a book too, and for the ____ (fill in blank with the appropriate race/ethnicity) people who love/like have interest in them all anyway. But, mainly, it's just for ordinary people or all persuasions who enjoy listening to funny stories about what Black people think of each other and what the White-majority world (specifically the US) in which they live thinks of them. Thurston also helps those who may not have ever been exposed to the different "kinds" of Black people understand that he is not the first to observe and write about the diversity among people of the same racial/ethnic group; he lists authors, titles, and terminology used within some groups to indicate such differences, including the book written by the only White panelist as a definitive guide to Whiteness.
This book is educating, entertaining, interesting, and funny. I laughed out loud for hours! Literally! If you can't laugh at yourself, this book is definitely not for you, and, well... you just might be a racist.
Written as a guide for the non-White person to understand his /her White friends, Lander's description leaves no room for misinterpretation: if you want to be friends with this "type" of White person, there are some things you're going to have to understand about his/her culture. Lander himself is a "type" of White man from Canada and writes with the expertise of a cultural anthropologist and with a sharp sense of humor. This book enumerates 150 ways to be White in one's actions, thoughts, and desires. The listener is encouraged to silently compare his/herself to the common White person and at the end, evaluate how "White" he or she is according to his/her tastes or actions.
Christian Lander's book is as much about about social class and race as it is comical. The pithy title shouldn't scare anyone way; everyone should be intrigued. With tongue firmly pressed in cheek, Lander points out the things that "White people like" as a social critique because absolutely no one would want to be these White people as they are described. It's not that these things are bad to like, quite the opposite; most are quite good things. What Lander points out is that this "type" of White people (and he does use this word "type", but to talk about those who do not like this stuff) tend to be spoiled, upper-middle classes, educated, self-absorbed, self described intellectuals and one-upping hypocrites, whose charitable interests are all about impressing other people and not at all about doing good deeds for others selflessly. They buy their groceries at Whole Foods and drive Priuses and are apt to talk about saving the environment, being against racism, sexism, and all the other ills of societies, but exoticize everything (historically ancient) Asian, South American, and African, and show no real concern for the workers being exploited by their favorite companies. That is, they basically have very little to do with the real world around them. This definitive guide will certainly remind you of some people you know and make you chuckle a bit, but surely, no one should see him/herself in this book. (In many ways, this book reminded me of the short-lived ABC animated program "The Goode Family".)
This is not a book for anyone who doesn't enjoy some humor based upon critical observations made by an insider; and it is certainly not for anyone who doesn't enjoy racial humor at least a little bit. If you are part of the demographic that Lander satirizes or you know people who may be, I highly recommend this book. It would make a great listen on a car trip with a few of your friends, especially if in an ethnically and/or economically diverse crowd. I can promise you, someone will discover they are 70% or more White, something s/he will deny emphatically.
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