Not a Genuine Black Man: My Life as an Outsider

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9781596923119: Not a Genuine Black Man: My Life as an Outsider

In the summer of 1972, when Brian Copeland was eight, his family moved from Oakland to San Leandro, California. At the time, San Leandro was 99.99% white and widely considered one of the most racist enclaves in the nation. This reputation was confirmed immediately: Brian got his first look at the inside of a cop car after walking to the park with a baseball bat in hand. Days later, Brian was turned away by several barbers who said we don t cut that kind of hair. And that Christmas, while shopping at a local department store, Brian was accused of stealing and forced to empty his pockets in front of store security.

It was a time that Brian spent his adult years trying to forget, until one day an anonymous letter arrived that forced him to reevaluate his childhood: As an African American, I am disgusted every time I hear your voice because YOU are not a genuine black man!

A poignant and disarming memoir about growing up black in an all-white suburb, Not a Genuine Black Man is also a powerful contemplation on the meaning of race, and a thoughtful examination of how our surroundings make us who we are.

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About the Author:

Brian Copeland is a comedian whose KGO radio program is the most popular in its time slot. Not a Genuine Black Man is currently in development as an HBO series. Copeland lives in San Leandro, California.

From Publishers Weekly:

This memoir offers a candid and funny response to those who question the racial authenticity of successful black men. After receiving a letter asserting that he is "not a genuine black man," Copeland"comic, actor, radio, talk show host"tries to understand the qualifications needed to earn the classification: "I can't swim. That's black. But I can't play basketball either." Raised in San Leandro, a suburb bordering Oakland, Calif., Copeland delves into his experiences as a lone black child struggling to blend in among a white majority. His mother attempted to assimilate in any way possible, converting to Catholicism and taking her family to "brunch" after church, despite resistance from whites. Copeland details a futile search for a barber who would consent to cut his hair, being searched by a security guard while trying to shop and receiving an eviction notice based purely on the color of the family's skin. Copeland's comedic talent is evident throughout the book, though he concedes that he uses laughter to keep the pain at bay and endured a time when he descended into depression. Honest and engaging, this memoir is a valuable book for anyone trying to straddle racial lines, for anyone who has ever felt out of place. (July)
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