Frederick Joseph is a black man who, as a teen, attended a largely white high school in upstate New York. In The Black Friend, he chronicles his experiences with racism - from blatancy and microaggressions to ignorance. Looking back, he sees missed opportunities to stand up in different kinds of situations. He also invites others to join him in sharing their experiences with racism, cultural appropriation, "reverse racism," and white privilege. From award-winning creators to media personalities and social advocates. Included in the back are a plethora of resources: Encyclopedia of Racism, People and Things To Know, and The Black Friend Playlist.
This is a very powerful, often uncomfortable read. It was also slow, as I would read a chapter and step away and reflect on all that Joseph and/or one of his "guests" presented. Nearly every page pushed me to think about my own experiences and behaviors. Knowing what I know now (thanks to Joseph and others) what would I do differently in a given situation? That is a lot to process and unpack, and it will take work.
Throughout the book, Joseph uses inset boxes to speak directly to the reader. Whether it is encouraging them to learn about a historical figure, find music by a particular artist, or offer his opinion about something, the book has many asides. They got to be too many. As I continued through the book I found them distracting and started jumping over them, especially when one of Joseph's guests was speaking. I wanted to hear from them without interruption.
There are exceptional resources in the back. The encyclopedia of racism makes clear many terms that are bandied about in the media, often without context. Joseph also has exceptional recommendations for music, movies, and books, as well as historical figures whose lives everyone should know more about.
Overall, this is a very informative book. I fear that it will be read more in a classroom setting than at home, but this is a book ripe for a family read-aloud. It creates opportunities for adult caregivers to establish family values and anti-racist expectations where they start: at home.
Individuals - teens and adults - seeking to be better humans will find this an uncomfortable, enlightening, powerful read.
The author does use profanity and the N word. They are used in the context of his story.
This is a first-person story about the author's experiences as a black man that also incorporates the stories of people of color from his and other marginalized communities.
There is a lot to unpack in this book. The inclusion of other peoples' experiences adds depth and weight to the seriousness of the discussions and the need for change. As the author notes later in the book, "we don't need allies: we need accomplices." What doe that mean to your reader? How would they go about being an accomplice?
15 and Up
13 and Up
Borrow. This is an informative, thought-provoking book. You'll want to continue your learning with other titles after this.