HOW TO MAKE WHITE PEOPLE LAUGH by Negin Farsad

HOW TO MAKE WHITE PEOPLE LAUGH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A memoir/essay collection from a self-described “hyphenated American…an Iranian-Muslim-female-honey-mustard-enthusiast” who is also a comedian, writer, filmmaker, and TED talker.

Such range and accomplishment suggest that Farsad might well have a rich and provocative book in her, but this scattershot debut isn’t it. Toward the end, Farsad describes her work as “social justice comedy,” though some of the most scathingly funny comedy today could fit that label without wearing it. Unlike plenty of books by stand-up comedians, this isn’t simply a series of bits or monologues transferred to the page. The author has some serious points to make about stereotypes and icons and about the many like her who are left in the margins amid “the binary discussion of race.” Her book takes its title from one of her TED talks, and it’s a title that would seem to suggest a black author—a symptom of the disease that afflicts the nation’s concept of diversity. Some of the most engaging sections are those that are closest to memoir, in which Farsad discusses growing up as a minority to other minorities, identifying with Mexicans because they were the closest match for the sole Iranian-American. “Just as I considered myself Mexican in high school,” she writes, “in college I began shifting my sights to being black.” The author came to realize that wherever she found herself fitting, she has also been marginalized by gender, by the assumption that a woman couldn’t be funny enough to be a comedian or smart enough to be a writer. Devoting herself to toppling such stereotypes, she finds strongest resistance to her work from those who, like her, are Muslim women. “My material isn’t racier than the average comic’s, not by a long shot,” she writes. “But to that Muslim minority, in the audience, it was shameful.”

Farsad combines throwaway laughs with some keeper insights. Readers may sense that she has a smarter, funnier book on the way later in her career.

Pub Date: May 24th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4555-5822-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2016




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