The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph

Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Jan. 27, 2021

#ReadYourWorld

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person

Frederick Joseph, Author

Candlewick Press, Nonfiction, Dec. 1, 2020

Suitable for ages: 12 – 17

Themes: Racism, Racial justice, Awareness, White people,

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Writing from the perspective of a friend, Frederick Joseph offers candid reflections on his own experiences with racism and conversations with prominent artists and activists about theirs—creating an essential read for white people who are committed anti-racists and those newly come to the cause of racial justice.

“We don’t see color.” “I didn’t know Black people liked Star Wars!” “What hood are you from?” For Frederick Joseph, life as a transfer student in a largely white high school 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 those white people who didn’t see the negative impact they were having.

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 features the voice of at least one artist or activist, including Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give; April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite; Jemele Hill, sports journalist and podcast host; 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 readers need. Backmatter includes an encyclopedia of racism, providing details on relevant historical events, terminology, and more.

The Black Friend has become an instant New York Times bestseller.

Why I like this book:

Readers will discover that The Black Friend is an eye-opening book, written with a great deal of passion and personal experience. Frederick Joseph’s goal is to enlighten readers with an honest look at America through his eyes.  A comment in his introduction says it well, “Thankfully, I’ve spent my years since high school learning and meeting people who were far more culturally aware and thoughtful than I was, which helped me realize that the role I wanted to play around white people wasn’t the token Black guy but rather ‘the Black friend’.”

Joseph skillfully brings to the forefront the subtleties of racism that white people are oblivious to because it is so far from their realm of experience. For example, “the talk” that Black parents have with their children regarding police. Joseph’s conversational approach makes this book relatable. He does an excellent job of talking about the many issues for Black people, sharing some of the worst and best moments in his life, and informing white people about what they should and should not say or do. It certainly is a necessary wake-up call for those who want to become better anti-racists.

I enjoyed the many conversations with notable 14 Black authors, celebrities, journalists, and activists, who contributed their experiences with racism in a wide variety of contexts that reinforce Joseph’s discussion.

This book was very helpful to me and my husband because we have a multicultural and multi-racial family. We didn’t think of ourselves as a racist, but we certainly see how uninformed we’ve been. This book is very helpful to us in our understanding of how we can do better. This is a book families should read and discuss together.  And it most certainly belongs in every school library for youth 12 and up.

Review Quote from Chelsea Clinton:

“Toward the end of The Black Friend, Frederick Joseph writes that his book is ‘a gift, not an obligation.’ I respectfully disagree. This book should be an obligation for white people, especially white parents, because we must raise anti-racist kids who will never be perpetrators of or bystanders to white supremacy and who will never mistake tolerance or appropriation for respect. Don’t skip the painful parts — read every word.” — Chelsea Clinton, author, advocate, and vice chair of the Clinton Foundation.

Frederick Joseph is a writer and an award-winning activist, philanthropist, and marketing professional. He was named to the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list, is a recipient of the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, given by Comic-Con International: San Diego, and was selected for the 2018 Root 100 list of most influential African Americans. He has written articles on race, marketing, and politics for outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Essence, the Huffington Post, and the Root. He lives in New York City.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021 (1/29/21) is in its 8th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Eight years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

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About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

21 thoughts on “The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph

  1. Wow! Why haven’t I heard of this book before? Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Adults should read this book too. I love the quote from Chelsea Cliinton.

    Like

    • Yes, it’s a book for teens and their families who want to better white friends. I really learned a lot from everyone who shared and am grateful that Frederick Joseph wanted to assume the role he’s chosen.

      Like

  2. What I’ve learned in my short life is that I never will have learned enough and I always need to be looking for new perspectives and educate myself on topics to become a better person. This book sounds like a perfect one to add to my list on my journey to become the best person I can be. It sounds like it will be super helpful for others as well!! This is the perfect book for MLK day as well. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    • We all have a lot more to learn and I especially like that he wrote this book for young adults. I have so much hope for the youth of today who are being taught differently. We all can to do better. Thank you Frederick Joseph!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us on the important book! I will add this one to my TBR list as I always enjoy learning new viewpoints/perspectives from others who have had a different life experience than me.

    Like

  4. Yes, even though I grew up with black and Asian friends and have always had a diverse classroom, there is always room to learn more. Such a great choice for today as we honor Martin Luther King and his legacy. I’ve added this one to my list of books to read this year. Thanks for the inspiring review on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

    Like

    • I am so happy to share this book today. The time has come for us to learn as much as we can so that we are inclusive as a society. After today’s inauguration, I’m hopeful. I believe we have to get to the roots of how we’ve treated people of different color so that we can heal.

      Like

  5. This sounds like such a valuable book! It’s wonderful to see antiracist concepts made accessible to children so they can learn them early on in life. Like Greg Pattridge said, this is a great pick for Martin Luther King Day! Thanks for the excellent review!

    Like

  6. This book sounds amazing—evaluating what we might do differently if given the opportunity is an important lesson.

    Like

    • It is not meant for middle grade students — 12-17 year-olds. I just shared it because I believe it is also a book adults will want to read so they can teach their children to be anti-racist. Glad you like the book!

      Like

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