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Shira Lazar

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Baratunde Thurston Teaches You 'How To Be Black'

Posted: 03/ 7/2012 3:53 pm

Few people are as good at being black as Baratunde Thurston. He's so good at it in fact, he decided to write a book on the subject to educate anyone who was interested.

His book, "How to be Black," has quickly rose to the New York Times Bestsellers list and explores the subject using satire. After all, what else can you expect from a man who also works as Digital Editor for The Onion?

"The book is a memoir, mostly," Thurston said. "It's a comedic memoir. It chronicles what I like to call my 'coming of blackness story,' having grown up in D.C. with a single mother and relatively hoodish conditions."

Peppered in throughout the book are lessons describing how to be the black friend, how to be the black employee, and how to speak for all black people.

"I think people should understand that you're not going to become black if you read the book," Thurston said. "A lot of people had hope about that. Your audience was very upset by that. You will get a little blacker.

Recognizing that the topic of race can be a heated one for many people, Thurston said comedy helps bring down some of the heat. His book has an element that empowers others to be confident in who you are, regardless of race.

"Through a personal story, I found people connecting to me that are not black, and that's part of the point," he said. Among the many subjects he's passionate about, politics is one of his favorites. He spoke to Lazar about the current 2012 GOP nomination race.

"It's amazing," Thurston said. "It's the best reality TV programming we've had in a while. We've got the anybody-but Mitt (Romney) brigade still active, denying that they're going to be married to this guy, and they're saying 'no, anybody else' and it's like repeat bachelor parties."

He said it was fun to watch the GOP candidates narrow themselves and their appeal to the nation by getting more extreme with each round of the primaries. Does these extremes help the comedic process for people like Thurston?

"When the politics become so absurd that it makes it hard to create the comedy, that's probably bad for the political process, maybe a little bit of a favor the comedic process," Thurston said about the GOP's antics. "The humor makes it accessible," he said.

 

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