Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? by Touré

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Pages: 252 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction (Sociology)
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Version: Hardback
Publication Date: September 2011
Publisher: Free Press
Source: Personal Collection

Synopsis (Book Jacket):
In the age of Obama, racial attitudes have become more complicated and naunced than ever before.  Inspired by a president who is unlike any Black man ever seen on our national stage, we are searching for new ways of understanding Blackness.  In this provocative new book, iconic commentator and journalist Touré tackles what it means to be Black in America today.    
Touré begins by examining the concept of "Post-Blackness," a term that defines artist who are proud to be black but don't want to be limited by identity politics and boxed in by race. He soon discovers that the desire to be rooted in but not constrained by Blackness is everywhere. In Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?  he argues that Blackness is infinite, that any identity imaginable is Black, and that all expressions of Blackness are legitimate.  
Here, Touré divulges intimate, funny, and painful stories of how race and racial expectations have shaped his life and explore how the concept of Post-Blackness functions in politics, society, psychology, arts, culture, and more.  He knew he could not tackle this topic all on his own, so he turned to 105 of the more important luminaries of our time for frank and thought-provoking opinions, including Conrel West, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Malcolm Gladwell, Melissa Harris-Perry, Harold Ford Jr., Kara Walker, Kehinde Wiley, Gleen Ligon, Paul Mooney, former New York Govenor David Paterson, Greg Tate, Aaron McGruder, Kamala Harris, Chuck D. Mumia Abu-Jamal, and many more.    
By engaging this brilliant, electric group and employing his signature insight, courage, and wit, Touré delivers a clarion call on race in America and how we change our perceptions for a better future.  Destroying the notion that there is a correct way to be Black, Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? will change how we perceive race forever.

I really don't know where to start my review of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?  because there is so much to talk about.   A picture of what my book of what  looked when I was done will probably show you why this review is going difficult for me to write and probably very wordy.

I first became aware of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? when Touré mentioned it on the Rachel Maddow Show.  When I saw that he was going to talk at the Miami International Book Festival, I jump at the chance to see him.  I even remember to pre-register for a ticket (which is major for me).  Let's just say that listening to Touré talk about his book, read a section of it, and then answer question made me buy the book and wait around to have it signed (the wait wasn't long).  I was impressed.

But it took me almost a year to actually read it.  Mainly, because I wanted to be able to discuss it with someone.  So, I made it August Book for my book club.  Which consist primary of Black-American and Haitian-American women.  It was an interesting discussion that not only focused on the book but how we saw pieces of ourselves in it.

Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? and I got off to a rocky started.  Before I started attending Book Club Meetings I never read the foreword but my Book Club has changed my reading habits slightly.  So, the foreword is written by Michael Eric Dyson. There is no easy why to put this but when Michael Eric Dyson comes on the television I turn the channel or set it to mute.  He annoys me.  Mainly, his voice and speech pattern annoys me.  I have heard him talk enough times that as I was reading the foreword I could hear his voice in my head and I cringed the whole way through.  Which is sad because there was very little wrong with the foreword  it was actually pretty good and he did not do that annoying thing where he throws in random "big" words to show how smart he that often.

The first chapter lessened my fears but then I read Chapter 2 and thought "Touré WTF?".  In short, Chapter 2 explores the term "Post-Blackness" and it's roots in the art community.  How this idea of Post-Blackness, has transformed who black artist define themselves in relationship to their art and their audience.  That is what I think the idea was but I just ended up thinking "What?".  In the end, I wondered if these artist were just trying to minimize their "Blackness" in order to gain a wider audience.  Because in essence a painters lively hood depends on an person wanting to put a painting on a wall.  If painter only appeals to on culture/ethnicity then they narrow their audience.  Now add in the fact that your audience may not frequent art galleries or have the disposable income to purchase pricey wall hangings.  The painter is not doing themselves any favors by casting a small net.  At the end of this chapter Puff Daddy and Notorious BIG song "All About The Benjamins" came to mind.

Chapter 3, "The Rise and Fall of a Post-Black King" was about the Dave Chappelle (I'm not a fan).  While I am not familiar with Chappelle's work and probably have watched less than 5 of his skits and never could finish a complete episode, I did find Touré's thoughts on the man and his art interesting.  I just did not find him funny.  I thought his work was interesting and thought provoking but that is all.  I could never understand the hype or why people found him to be comedic genius.  Touré did not change my thoughts on Chappelle or sway them in the least, but I thought his theory on why Chappelle left his show (and millions of dollars) might be somewhat true.  (If you want to know the theory you will have to read the book)

Chapter 4 (I promise this won't be a chapter by chapter review) is where things really picked up for me (and several other members of my book club).  This is where Touré talked about his own experiences as growing up black.  There was an incident in this book that reminded me of Joyce Carol Oates Black Girl/White Girl.  But there were moments when I was reminded of myself and my own education.  I was reminded about why I decided to go to a HBCU and am happy that I did. (For those of you wondering I got tired of people questioning my intelligence).

The rest of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? was filled of stories and reflections of other people's experience of being black in America.  There experience were wide and brought out tons of emotions in me. Some made me laugh out loud.  Some made me want to cry.  Others pissed me off.

I think one important thing to understand is that Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? is not about "post-racism", which I don't think exists or ever will.  It's about breaking away from the stereotypes of what Blackness is and understanding that Blackness cannot be defined by others (both in and out of the black community).  So, if you are looking to read a book that confirms your beliefs that we live in a "post-racism" society this is not the book.  .

Explanation of Rating:
This could have easily been a 5 star read for me if it had not been the beginning.  Touré is a great writer and I was engaged throughout the book and would have finished it much sooner if it had not been for the fact that I had to stop and mark everything that I had found interesting.

Overall Recommendation:

A highly recommended read.  In fact,  I am going to let what I read marinate for another year and read it again.  This time I am not going to be afraid to highlight sections that I love.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Finds: October 12th

Friday Finds hosted by Should Be Reading ask:

What great books did you hear about/discover this past week? Share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

This Friday I decided to dust off my passport and take a trip.  A Trip to India.

(Clicking on the image will take you to the books GoodReads page)

What Did You Find This Week?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Finds: October 5th

Friday Finds hosted by Should Be Reading ask:

What great books did you hear about/discover this past week? Share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

Bibliophile By The Sea is a great place to find good reads.  I have found a lot of interesting books from that blog including these 4.

(Clicking on the image will take you to the books GoodReads page)

What Did You Find This Week?

Monday, October 1, 2012

MRBC: October Update

I don't often talk about my bookclub, Mocha Readers on this site.  But I thought it would be interesting to at least do one update a month on what we are reading.

I founded Mocha Readers (MR)  almost a year ago (last November).  My main reason was because it was really hard to find people in Miami that were interested in reading.  Also, because the only other book club that I could find was held on a Weekday evening which was hard for me to get to.

I am in charge of "selecting" the books.  Basically, the task fell into my lap because it was hard to get suggestion from other members.  I decided to  have the group vote on a list of books that shared a common "theme" every month.

The Theme this month was Georgia, either stories set in Georgia or written by Georgian authors.

Runners Up:

Youngblood by John Oliver Killens

John Oliver Killens's landmark novel of social protest chronicles the lives of the Youngblood family and their friends in Crossroads, Georgia, from the turn of the century to the Great Depression. Its large cast of powerfully affecting characters includes Joe Youngblood, a tragic figure of heroic physical strength; Laurie Lee, his beautiful and strong-willed wife; Richard Myles, a young high school teacher from New York; and Robby, the Youngbloods' son, who takes the large risk of becoming involved in the labor movement.

I Wish I Had a Red Dress by Pearl Cleage

Since Joyce Mitchell was widowed five years ago, she's kept herself occupied by running the Sewing Circus, an all-girl group she founded to provide badly needed services to young women at risk, many of whom are single mothers. But some nights, home alone, she has to admit that something is missing. And soon she may not even have the Sewing Circus to fill up her life, as the state legislature has decided not to fund the group.
Feeling defeated and pessimistic, Joyce reluctantly agrees to dinner at the home of her best friend, Sister, and finds not only a perfect meal but a tall, dark stranger named Nate Anderson. His unexpected presence touches a chord in Joyce that she thought her heart had forgotten how to play.
Suddenly, Joyce feels ready to grab a sexy red dress and the life that goes with it . . . if she can keep her girls safe from the forces--useless boyfriends and government agencies--alike against them.


Flight of the Blackbird by Faye McDonald Smith

In her remarkable debut novel, Faye McDonald Smith gives us a portrait of American family life in the nineties that is at once startlingly realistic and superbly entertaining. In it we meet the Burkes, an upwardly mobile, attractive, near-perfect family made up of Mel, an accomplished Atlanta executive who is beloved by her friends and family; her husband Builder, a hard working entrepreneur who is also a loving husband and a wonderful father; and their twelve-year-old daughter, Sasha, an only child who is an excellent student, popular and happy. All appears well in this African-American household, whose inhabitants have pretty much achieved the American dream. But one day Mel walks into her boss's office at the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and by the time she walks out again everything has changed; she is told that the office is being downsized and that her position will be eliminated. This event triggers a downward spiral in the life of the Burke family and it soon seems that the foundation upon which their American dream has been built is not very solid. Mel and Builder begin to question everything about their heretofore seemingly idyllic lives and it is on this journey that we accompany them.