A how-to guide for tough talks: A review of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man sits in front of a vase of purple and pink flowers and a green plant.

Let me first start off by saying this: Every. One. Needs. To. Read. This. Book. ASAP! While I have been trying to read more diverse writers from all backgrounds more in the past year of reading, I really didn’t start reading nonfiction again for fun until last summer. Last summer’s acts of police brutality and the strength of the Black Lives Matter movement that followed really showed me how much I personally had to learn, so I worked much harder to read Black voices, both in fiction and nonfiction. Out of the many books I’ve been fortunate to pick up in the past year by Black writers, this one has got to be one of the best.

Quick synopsis: “Emmanuel Acho believes the only way to cure our nation’s oldest disease–racism–starts with a profound, revolutionary idea: actually talking to one another. No, seriously. Until it gets uncomfortable…and then some.”

What I loved most about this book was Acho’s deeply conversational tone, full of heart, compassion, and empathy. Truly, no topic was off the table, ranging as far and as wide as allyship, interracial families, the n-word, implicit bias, and much, much more. As a reader, it brought a deep sense of comfort in feeling as if I was simply sitting with this guy, talking about race over a cup of coffee or something of the sort. While it was full of historical and cultural research along with Acho’s personal experiences, it never felt dry or academic, but truly felt like a conversation with a friend.

That feeling of comfort and friendship perfectly balanced out the other side of the book — namely, feeling “uncomfortable.” And yeah, there were loads of moments where I was incredibly, wildly uncomfortable. I mean, talking about the n-word, for example, isn’t easy! I’ve grown up knowing it’s a word I shouldn’t say, but I never really understood why Black people could call each other that. Acho answers that question and so many more in a way that educated and enlightened me, but didn’t make me feel bad or upset or hurt as a non-Black person. Rather, I felt like I better understood the experiences of my fellow human beings and how conversations like this could help me become a better ally, friend, and antiracist willing to fight the good fight.

Race isn’t a dirty word and it isn’t something that should be shied away from. Racism, however, stems deeply in the systems that make up our society, and I loved Acho’s perspective that on an individual basis, having these tough conversations — really getting comfortable with being uncomfortable — is a step in the right direction toward true allyship and fighting against racism.

I still have loads to learn and much room to grow when it comes to my own personal journey in becoming a better ally, but this book gave me some much-needed, actionable tools in my arsenal to help get me there. I would without a doubt recommend this book to anyone looking to start or continue their journey to learn more about race and what to do to help end systemic racism in our communities. This would make a great individual read or be perfect for a book club to discuss with friends, family members, or others in your community also seeking to learn, grow, and ultimately get comfortable being uncomfortable.

My monthly reading wrap-up — February 2021

On the left is a white, fluffy goldendoodle and on the right is my husky mix puppy. In between is a stack of books for my

Just like in January, I am so excited for the eight books I got to read this month. I tried to include books by Black writers to honor Black History Month, along with one eARC and even a Western — a totally new genre to me! I also picked up a childhood classic, which was an awesome reminder that children’s books can be as thought-provoking, if not more so, than many adult books.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. What a great way to start off February, and as a buddy read with one of my favorite bookstagrammer friends. This story was incredibly told and so unique in its format, as it told the diverging stories of two half sisters unknown to each other on the Ghanaian Gold Coast. This short read still read like an epic and was full of incredible character development. You can check out my full review here.

Outlawed by Anna North. This one was probably the most fun read of February and so different than anything I had ever read. I’m not too familiar with the Western genre, but I typically think ultra-masculine and white, so it was awesome to see that totally flipped on its head in terms of female, racial, and LGBTQ+ representation. It wasn’t my favorite read of the month (a solid three stars), but it was still a fun traipse into the Wild West. You can read my full review here.

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey. This is my first sci-fi of 2021, I believe, and I’m so glad I got a chance to check this one out early by receiving an eARC from NetGalley and TOR. The Echo Wife was my quickest read of the month — I read it in only two sittings! I loved the domestic thriller vibes, and it really forced me to think about the ethical dilemma regarding the technology of cloning. My full review can be viewed here.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett. After reading The Vanishing Half (Bennett’s second novel) last year, I knew that I’d need to add her debut to my TBR. This book is so different than The Vanishing Half, but told with the same level of tenderness. The three main characters — Aubrey, Nadia, and Luke — really hold this story together. While each is imperfect and certainly makes mistakes, this story was full of compassion. I’ll be posting my full review on my blog soon.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. How did I go my entire childhood and adult life without reading this wonderful gem of a story?! Well, luckily my mother-in-law gifted me a beautiful pop-up version for my birthday. This is proof that children’s stories can be just as, if not more, full of meaning as any adult book out there. I highly recommend if you haven’t read it already!

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel. Similarly to Homegoing, this amazing, lyrical, evocative story reads like a true, full-length epic, but manages to pack all that meaning and character development into less than 200 pages. This Own Voices story tells the tale of a family separated by their mixed-immigration status and the lengths they go to reunite. My full review can be read here.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho. If I could recommend a single book to someone looking to learn more about race in America, this would be it. Acho’s book reads as if you’re sitting down with him having a cup of coffee, while addressing all of the many questions regarding race and the Black experience you’ve probably had. It felt so intimate and compassionate, which is so valuable when it comes to these tough conversations. Check out my review here.

The Removed by Brandon Hobson. In my goal to expand my reading experiences to include marginalized and underrepresented voices, I decided to pick up The Removed, a genre-bending novel about a Cherokee family reeling in the aftermath of Ray-Ray’s death by the hands of police. This was a touching and emotional story. While it wasn’t my favorite book of the month, I certainly enjoyed this new perspective and a different take on police brutality. I’ll be posting a review for this one soon.

What did you read this month, and which book was your favorite? Let me know in the comments below or reach out to me on Instagram!