The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell
You may know W. Kamau Bell from his new critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated hit show on CNN, United Shades of America. Or maybe you've read about him in The New York Times, which called him, the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years. Or maybe in The New Yorker, fawning over his brand of humor, writing, Bell's gimmick is intersectional progressivism: he treats racial, gay, and women's issues as inseparable.After all this love and praise, it's time for the next step: a book. The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell will be a humorous, well-informed take on the world today, tackling a wide range of evergreen issues, such as race relations; fatherhood; the state of law enforcement today; comedians and superheroes; right-wing politics; failure; his interracial marriage; his upbringing by very strong-willed, race-conscious, yet ideologically opposite parents; his early days struggling to find his comedic voice, then his later days struggling to find his comedic voice; why he never seemed to fit in with the Black comedy scene . . . or the white comedy scene; how he was a Black nerd way before that became a thing; how it took his wife and an East Bay lesbian to teach him that racism and sexism often walk hand in hand; and much, much more.

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell Details

TitleThe Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 2nd, 2017
PublisherDutton Books
ISBN1101985879
ISBN-139781101985878
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Humor, Autobiography, Memoir, Writing, Essays, Comedy, Biography Memoir

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell Review

  • Billie
    March 1, 2017
    I am a fan of Bell's work and, as such, was really looking forward to reading this. BUT, I am totally going to be a asshole here and say that, even for an ARC, this book was riddled with too many errors. The essays are smart and thoughtful and funny, but the need for proofreading and copy editing really got distracting and took away from my appreciation of Bell's message.
    more
  • Carol
    April 29, 2017
    Thanks, Dutton, for sending me an ARC!While I initially wanted to read this because I wanted to learn more about Kamau, I quickly realized that this was way more than just another comedian's memoir. Race, racism, and politics are heavily threaded throughout and I'm on board. He's also candid about his experiences in stand-up and in the entertainment industry, which really opened my eyes to not just how completely screwed up the showrunning/writing relationship can be, but also how representation Thanks, Dutton, for sending me an ARC!While I initially wanted to read this because I wanted to learn more about Kamau, I quickly realized that this was way more than just another comedian's memoir. Race, racism, and politics are heavily threaded throughout and I'm on board. He's also candid about his experiences in stand-up and in the entertainment industry, which really opened my eyes to not just how completely screwed up the showrunning/writing relationship can be, but also how representation is in the entertainment industry is just as important as in every other working environment. Takeaways: you have to do more than just show up, though obviously that's a good place to start if you haven't already. You've got to speak out, especially to friends and family. Maybe you won't change their minds right away but planting seeds of truth can work over time to affect change. If you're already organizing and getting your voice heard, you've gotta do more and expect less (less sleep, or leisure time, etc.). Further thoughts: I really want to meet Janet Cheatham Bell.Also: Doc McStuffins all the way!In the back of the galley Kamau notes that the final version of this book will have more on the current administration and political situation, of which I'm very much looking forward to. I'll update this review after I've read the final publication.
    more
  • Reading in Black & White
    April 25, 2017
    There were a few gems dropped in this book, like this one: "Being able to say no is the most power you can ever have. It is either a luxury when you can afford to leave, or it is necessary for survival when the cost to stay is waaaaay too high." Review to come!
    more
  • Brandi
    January 23, 2017
    I had heard of W. Kamau Bell, but didn't know much about him until he spoke at the American Library Association conference this past weekend. He was side-splittingly funny on a day when most of the crowd was in mourning - and he thankfully capitalized on that by showing our new president no mercy. I was glad I grabbed a copy of his book, which expanded on themes he talked about in his speech - politics, being black in America, and parenting mixed-race children. It's a book every white person sho I had heard of W. Kamau Bell, but didn't know much about him until he spoke at the American Library Association conference this past weekend. He was side-splittingly funny on a day when most of the crowd was in mourning - and he thankfully capitalized on that by showing our new president no mercy. I was glad I grabbed a copy of his book, which expanded on themes he talked about in his speech - politics, being black in America, and parenting mixed-race children. It's a book every white person should read, seriously. He does a good job of describing the fears he lives with every day. I will definitely be looking up his CNN show, United Shades of America.
    more
  • Janelle
    May 3, 2017
    Let’s get this much out of the way: though it figures into the title, W. Kamau Bell does not address his asthma in this book. If you were reading the title and twigged on that word, there’s very little here for you. It’s a shame, really, because Bell thoughtfully addresses pretty much everything else and I might have been interested to know what he had to say on the topic, especially given the high incidence of asthma in African Americans. I can only wonder what he’s hiding.But enough about what Let’s get this much out of the way: though it figures into the title, W. Kamau Bell does not address his asthma in this book. If you were reading the title and twigged on that word, there’s very little here for you. It’s a shame, really, because Bell thoughtfully addresses pretty much everything else and I might have been interested to know what he had to say on the topic, especially given the high incidence of asthma in African Americans. I can only wonder what he’s hiding.But enough about what Bell doesn’t want you to know because there’s a lot here that he does. He wants to talk about not fitting in and finding friends when you don’t fit in. He wants to talk about liking metal when the world expects you to be conversant in Public Enemy. Bell wants to talk about the struggles of making it as a stand-up comedian when you’re weird (but not charming weird, rather regular “maybe I’ll catch the next elevator instead of standing next to that guy” weird). He wants to talk about being a good son and a loving dad.My only prior exposure to Bell has been as a guest on NPR’s Code Switch podcast (maybe Pop Culture Happy Hour, too?). I’ve never seen his stand-up (judging by his stories in the book, I’m going to guess you haven’t either). I haven't watched either of his shows. Honestly, prior to this book, I couldn’t have told you he was a stand-up comedian. I assumed he was an NPR host.I point this out because settling into this book took me a while. Through the first two or three chapters, I kept thinking that I would rather hear him perform this material than read it on the page. Bell’s anecdotes are of that rambling style where you think they’ve gone far afield of where the story began until they unexpectedly close the loop. Once I settled into the style, it was a lot easier to move through the stories.This book feels almost like two shorter books that have been awkwardly joined into one. The first book is Bell’s origin story. He describes his nomadic childhood, of superheroes and his personal feelings on representation, of being a little weird and struggling (or not) to be black in “the right way”. He talks about dropping out of an Ivy League school and trying to make a living as a comic. It’s loosely chronological and there’s no “through line” for the story.I knew I loved Good Times, but I also knew I loved The Brady Bunch. I never thought to pick. Eventually, I found that people regularly wanted me to pick between Black stuff and white stuff. I just like stuff. I’m a stuff-ist.The second, shorter book feels like it might have been a last-minute addition in response to the 2016 election cycle and outcome. While I know Bell’s comedy niche is social and political humor, the energy of his thoughts on our current political climate is noticeably different than the rest of the book. I wonder if those portions weren’t sewn-in to keep the book’s content fresh and relevant. It’s fine, but a little jarring.When Democrats say they’re going to ignore Trump’s white supremacy, xenophobia, Islamophobia, ableism, and racism because they’re going to find common ground, they’re letting him dictate what the ground is.Awkward Thoughts is a collection of memoir-ish essays, of a kind with Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and Olivia Munn’s Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek. It’s thoughtful and sincere, and while it’s funny, it’s never “laugh until your sides ache and tears come” kind of funny. It makes me want to seek out Bell’s work in other media--his show United Shades of America recently kicked off its second season--which seems the best outcome from a book like this.I received a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review is also posted at Cannonball Read.
    more
  • Roxane
    May 6, 2017
    Very good collection of essays. Part memoir. Part riffs on Bell's interests. Part cultural criticism. The essays all have a meandering quality as if the writer is sitting next to you, telling you a good story. He is particularly good at showing his growth personally and professionally. Lots of warmth and heart and intelligence here.
    more
  • Lindsay
    March 19, 2017
    Some real gems in here and the author has a strong voice. I would be curious to see the final version, as the galley has, as others have noted, so many typos and mistakes that it detracts from the message. With some editing, this could be a powerful book.
    more
  • Sara Planz
    April 7, 2017
    W. Kamau Bell has written a funny and poignant look at his life and how it has his experiences have shaped his view of the world and his approach to life. I absolutely loved how open and honest he is about his own "awkwardness" in life, how he has had to bridge so many worlds and how it has affected everything from his family to his career. I think we all struggle to fit into the world and Bell writes so truthfully about finding his own way to become a success. I loved how each chapter examines W. Kamau Bell has written a funny and poignant look at his life and how it has his experiences have shaped his view of the world and his approach to life. I absolutely loved how open and honest he is about his own "awkwardness" in life, how he has had to bridge so many worlds and how it has affected everything from his family to his career. I think we all struggle to fit into the world and Bell writes so truthfully about finding his own way to become a success. I loved how each chapter examines a topic and the people that influenced him that helped him become who he is and make his own unique mark.
    more
  • Alyssa
    February 21, 2017
    This is a great read for fans of W. Kamau Bell (like me!) to find out a little more about the comedian's childhood and career. When this book is published in its final form, I would recommend checking it out in the audio format.
  • Roybot
    February 10, 2017
    This was an ARC given to me at ALA Midwinter (after Kamau's fantastic opening remarks; if you have a chance, go see him, you won't regret it). This was maybe exactly what I needed to read right now. It's written as a series of (at times loosely) related snippets that are Kamau's "awkward" musings on topics ranging from his childhood to his career to his family to comic books. While many of the stories are fascinating (and, of course, hilarious) on their own, they're also the story of America, an This was an ARC given to me at ALA Midwinter (after Kamau's fantastic opening remarks; if you have a chance, go see him, you won't regret it). This was maybe exactly what I needed to read right now. It's written as a series of (at times loosely) related snippets that are Kamau's "awkward" musings on topics ranging from his childhood to his career to his family to comic books. While many of the stories are fascinating (and, of course, hilarious) on their own, they're also the story of America, and what it means to be a 6' 4", African American, heterosexual, cisgender, left-leaning, asthmatic, black and proud blerd, mama's boy, dad, and stand-up comedian. He talks frankly and honestly about his experiences coming into an awareness of his Black-ness, how he discovered intersectional politics, and how his life experiences shaped his career and family life. While the individual chapters don't always flow very well into one another, the larger effect is strong. I appreciate the humorous approach to serious subject matter, and it's certainly provided me with material to think about (and a call to action to DO BETTER).
    more
  • Erin
    January 24, 2017
    This was an advanced reader's copy, so issues of editing aside, it still reads a bit like a rough draft. This is a book that is an awkward conversation with Kamau. It is not an introduction. If you have no idea of who Bell is or his comedic style or his political stances this may not be the best way to learn. His book builds on the assumption that the reader is at least a little familiar with Kamau and his work. Having said that, I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed reading this book.Bells humor reson This was an advanced reader's copy, so issues of editing aside, it still reads a bit like a rough draft. This is a book that is an awkward conversation with Kamau. It is not an introduction. If you have no idea of who Bell is or his comedic style or his political stances this may not be the best way to learn. His book builds on the assumption that the reader is at least a little familiar with Kamau and his work. Having said that, I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed reading this book.Bells humor resonates with me. He is a big, funny, awkward man - and I adore him! He spoke at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting 2017 in Atlanta and it was a delight to have him there. He seemed a little unsure of his audience (really, librarians tend to be middle class, middle aged white ladies - so I could see that) and it was fun to listen to him repeat the refrain, "They said I could say anything" after a joke he probably internally debated telling. I'm glad he did crack those jokes. Mostly because they were funny, but also because it was important for the audience to hear. I am a big fan of wrapping up uncomfortable truths in humor. I think this is why I like Bell so much. His book could have touched on so many more uncomfortable truths. However, I am also approaching it from a place of a little bit of familiarity. It will be interesting to see what the final book looks like and the thoughts expressed about it. I plan to reread this book when the final version is published in May.
    more
  • Janieh Hermann
    February 10, 2017
    Funny, poignant, serious and truthy.... all the required elements of a good memoir from a funny guy.
  • Dana Giusti
    February 3, 2017
    I received an ARC at ALA Midwinter. This was an excellent read, and Bell's discussion of racism is frank and important. I look forward to picking up a copy once it's officially published, as Bell noted he may make changes and include updated essays in light of Trump's presidential term starting. My favorite quote: "Rachel Maddow, who I consider my patronus, was the one who'd reached out." !!!! <3My only complaint--this was most definitely an ARC, as it is riddled with spelling and grammatical I received an ARC at ALA Midwinter. This was an excellent read, and Bell's discussion of racism is frank and important. I look forward to picking up a copy once it's officially published, as Bell noted he may make changes and include updated essays in light of Trump's presidential term starting. My favorite quote: "Rachel Maddow, who I consider my patronus, was the one who'd reached out." !!!! <3My only complaint--this was most definitely an ARC, as it is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. I have a feeling it was pushed through to the printers without any editing in order to be ready in time for Midwinter.
    more
  • kathyrn
    April 13, 2017
    I'm not the right audience for this book.
  • Sara
    April 18, 2017
    I hope the edited version of this is in way better shape. I liked it, but there were so many mistakes it was almost impossible to suss out meaning in certain paragraphs. Overall it was funny and interesting, but very disorganized.
Write a review