Have you read an anti-racism book yet this year? Not yet? Well, I challenge you to read at least one in 2021. There are so many books that raise the issue of systemic racism from non-fiction to genre fiction and everything in between so you’re bound to find a book that works for you. (I’ll include some links to listicles at the end if you need some recommendations!) And today I’m going to be talking about one anti-racism book in particular. That book is The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph.
The hardcover came out last year but the paperback and eBook versions are being released early next month. And honestly, this is a great option if you’re looking to educate yourself and be a better ally to people of colour. So without further ado, here’s my book review. (Hey, that rhymed!)
Many thanks to Walker Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The Black Friend: On Being A Better White Person
By Frederick Joseph
Publisher: Walker Books
Date of Publication: 1st April 2021
Format: eBook (272 pages)
Buy The Black Friend on Bookshop.org*
From the perspective of the friend everyone should have, Frederick Joseph offers an essential read for white people who want to be better about race—and people of color who long to see their experiences validated.
“We don’t see color.” “I didn’t know Black people liked Star Wars!” “What hood are you from?” For Frederick Joseph, life in a mostly white high school as a smart and increasingly popular transfer student was full of wince-worthy moments that he often simply let go. As he grew older, however, he saw these as missed opportunities not only to stand up for himself, but to spread awareness to the white friends and acquaintances who didn’t see the negative impact they were having and who would change if they knew how.
Speaking directly to the reader, The Black Friend calls up race-related anecdotes from the author’s past, weaving in his thoughts on why they were hurtful and how he might handle things differently now. Each chapter includes the voice of at least one artist or activist, including Tarell Alvin McCraney, screenwriter of Moonlight; April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite; Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give; and eleven others. Touching on everything from cultural appropriation to power dynamics, “reverse racism” to white privilege, microaggressions to the tragic results of overt racism, this book serves as conversation starter, tool kit, and invaluable window into the life of a former “token Black kid” who now presents himself as the friend many of us need. Back matter includes an encyclopedia of racism, providing details on relevant historical events, terminology, and more.
I’ve read a few anti-racism books recently so it’s hard not to compare titles with each other. But if I’m being honest, this is one of my favourites. It’s up there with Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. For very different reasons.
First of all, I loved what The Black Friend brings to the conversation. Joseph’s narrative is refreshing and accessible. And I truly believe that this book will help some readers finally understand and change their mindset which is what we need if we’re ever going to end racism.
The Black Friend is told through Joseph’s own experiences with racism as a teen and into early adulthood. He clearly explains why each experience was racist and then goes on to offer guidance on how to be a better accomplice (not ally!) to people of colour. Again, this was a huge selling point to me. For one, it’s different to any of the other anti-racism books I’ve read. And I found that the conversational nature of the content really helped to keep it light even though the subject itself is heavy.
Joseph’s warm and friendly tone gives readers the opportunity to actually connect with the author which is incredible. You do genuinely feel like you’re having a conversation with a friend and that’s very effective. And given that I am older than the intended audience, I think it will be even more effective with teens and younger adults.
Other things that I enjoyed about The Black Friend were:
- Clear goals so everything flows naturally
- Well sourced throughout
- Inclusion of interviews with other people of colour to discuss their experiences and unique perspectives
- The encyclopedia of racism which covers everything from white privilege to cultural appropriation as well as a list of various media to check out and a playlist!
Overall, I think that everyone should read this book. It’s timely and deeply impactful. But even more importantly, it’s about listening. Listening to people of colour and understanding how systemic racism hurts them at every level in every system and then actually taking steps to challenge racism. And this book isn’t a huge commitment – it’s less than 300 pages long, the content is accessible and it will give you a solid foundation to become a more understanding and inclusive anti-racist. (If you aren’t an anti-racist already, then you need this book the most.) So yeah, read this book ASAP!
Anti-racism Book Recommendation Listicles To Check Out:
- Anti-Racist Books and Resources (Penguin Random House)
- An Essential Reading Guide For Fighting Racism (Buzzfeed)
- 35 Must Read Books About Racism (BOOKRIOT)
- 7 Young Adult Novels That Encourage Discussions on Racism (ThoughtCo)
- Read Against Racism: An Essential Book List (Waterstones)
- 20 Books to Read About White Privilege and Being Anti-Racist (The Everygirl)
- Books and Resources to Help You Raise Anti-Racist Children (Brightly)
- Black Lives Matter Book List (Book Trust)
- Books About Racism and Social Justice (Common Sense Media)
Which books are on your antiracism reading list? Let me know in the comments below!