Book Review: The Black Friend by Frederick Joseph

March 3, 2021 in Non-Fiction

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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

The Black Friend: On Being A Better White Person
By Frederick Joseph

Publisher: Walker Books
Date of Publication: 1st April 2021
Genre: Non-Fiction/YA
Format: eBook (272 pages)
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy The Black Friend on*



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.


My Review

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:


Which books are on your antiracism reading list? Let me know in the comments below!


  • Eleanor Jones March 5, 2021 at 11:10 am

    This sounds like an interesting and informative read about the experiences of people of colour- and how we can best approach the subject of race. Thank you for sharing x

    • Hayley March 5, 2021 at 2:06 pm

      That’s exactly it, Eleanor – it’s both interesting and informative. 🙂

  • Cristina Rosano March 5, 2021 at 11:36 am

    This sounds like a great read! I have already added it to my TBR and after this review, I truly need to pick it up ASAP! I am still making my way through The New Jim Crow, so this will be next! Thanks for sharing this x

    • Hayley March 5, 2021 at 2:12 pm

      That’s great to hear Cristina, how are you getting on with The New Jim Crow? I had to return it to my library unfinished but will hopefully get back to it in the near future!

  • Jenny in Neverland March 5, 2021 at 11:42 am

    I read Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race last year and really enjoyed it. It was so eye-opening and educational and I learned a lot so I’d definitely be interested in reading more anti-racism books. In fact, I NEED to read more anti-racism books. So thank you for this recommendation. I’ll be looking into grabbing myself a copy of this x

    • Hayley March 5, 2021 at 2:24 pm

      Thanks Jenny, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is such a powerful book, I definitely think you’ll find a lot of value in this one too. 🙂

  • Lindsey March 5, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    Oh this has gone straight to the top of my list. I love how accessible this sounds and the fact that you can truly connect to the narrator. Thank you so much for the recommendation!

    • Hayley March 5, 2021 at 3:01 pm

      You’re very welcome, Lindsey! Hope you enjoy it. 🙂

  • Stephanie March 5, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    This sounds like such a phenomenal book! I’ve not heard of it til now, but it sounds like a title that needs to be on every anti-racism education list because I always see others, but not this one – and I’ll be honest: I typically prefer the underrated or lesser-known books. I’m positive this was incredibly insightful and wonderfully written! Thank you so much for sharing your review.

    • Hayley March 9, 2021 at 8:47 am

      I think this one got a bit lost when it was released in hardback last year. Hopefully the eBook and paperback releases will give it a boost and get it onto the anti-racism lists in the near future. It definitely NEEDS to be included! 🙂

  • Molly @ Transatlantic Notes March 5, 2021 at 5:45 pm

    This sounds perfect to go with the other books that I’ve read and have on my list — very informative. Thank you!

    • Hayley March 9, 2021 at 8:49 am

      Thanks Molly, I hope you find it informative! 🙂

  • Amie March 5, 2021 at 6:48 pm

    Oooh I need this book in my life. I have so many on my TBR list right now, but I need another book!

    Love, Amie ❤
    The Curvaceous Vegan

    • Hayley March 9, 2021 at 9:02 am

      Thanks Amie, I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

  • Jaya Avendel March 5, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    I am often a little shy of reading books like this because I have often been drowned in the informational way the books are written. That this is a story and a well-told one connects with me; I love that it is relevant and powerful and opens room for thought!
    Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

    • Hayley March 9, 2021 at 9:23 am

      Thanks Jaya, that’s exactly it – the way it’s told is so powerful that it instantly stands apart from books that are too heavily focused on information. 🙂

  • Sarah March 6, 2021 at 12:06 am

    I haven’t read any book like this before. I have read a number of reviews for The Black Friend and they all make me think I need to add this one to my TBR and get to it soon. I really enjoyed reading your review.

    • Hayley March 9, 2021 at 9:27 am

      Thanks Sarah! 🙂

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