NPR FOR THE DEF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t AIR

It’s no coincidence that Baratunde Thurston’s new memoir and satirical self-help book How to Be Black was slated for release on the first day of Black History Month. “I feel great about that,” Thurston tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “I think we have a moment every year in our country where everyone buys black stamps and thinks more explicitly about black people and blackness, so it was a perfect month to release a book on this subject.” Thurston, a stand-up comedian and The Onion‘s digital director, says that he doesn’t get as many gigs this month as one might think. “There aren’t as many black spokespersons to go around, so I’m happy to play that role from time to time,” he says. “But I think this year will probably be a little bigger than years past.” That’s because How to Be Black is partially a practical guidebook for anyone looking to befriend or work with a black person, become the next black president or challenge anyone who says they speak for all black people. But the book isn’t just filled with comedic advice. Thurston weaves together his comedy with thoughtful missives about his own education at Sidwell Friends and Harvard University, and his childhood in one of the worst crack-addled neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. His father was killed in a drug deal when Thurston was 6. His mother was what he describes as a “pan-African hippie type of woman who marched in the streets” and named him Baratunde as a way to “get back to Africa.””My version of being black adheres as much to the stereotypes as it dramatically breaks from them,” he writes in How to Be Black. “And that’s probably true for most of you reading this: if not about blackness itself, then about something related to your identity. Through my story, I hope to expose you to another side of the black experience while offering practical, comedic advice based on my own painful lessons learned.” MORE

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