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June 2017

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The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell by W. Kamau Bell

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: Fans of decent memoir writing.

In a nutshell: Comedian and political commentator offers some insight into his perspective on life.

Line that sticks with me: “If there’s one thing that I learned from both of my parents, it is that you don’t need the paper to get the information.” (p33)

Why I chose it: The cover and subtitle (”Tales of a 6’4”, African-American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian”)

Review: I’m trying to figure out the best way to describe this book and my reaction to it. It was a nice, fun (thought not especially funny – which I think was the point), fairly quick read. It offered insight into Mr. Bell’s life. It tackled topics like race and sexism in a nuanced and clever way. But it didn’t leave me raving. It was like a perfectly fine dinner at a decent restaurant. Not going down in the top five meals (or books), but also not necessitating that I warn off others from experiencing it.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some rough parts – this isn’t a fluffy book. He tells some sweet stories, but also some challenging ones. Like his experiences being a Black star of a show dealing with heady topics like interviewing the KKK with a white showrunner who doesn’t really get it. Or his honesty in recognizing that some of his jokes, while spot on in the racial commentary category, were missing it with some thinly veiled (and unintentional) misogyny.

I also appreciate that, while I believe that books like this are often turned in pretty far in advance of their publication, I’m guessing he either edited or added some things to address the 2016 election.

Mr. Bell is a talented writer, and I enjoyed the stories he chose to tell. I would recommend this as a library book read for sure, or maybe pick it up when it’s available in paperback. I think if you enjoy memoirs, this is a good one to add to your list, especially if you want something refreshing and honest but not annoyingly self-deprecating.

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