Book Review: The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell


You may know W. Kamau Bell from his hit show on CNN. Or maybe you’ve read about him in The New York Times or The New Yorker, about his intersectional progressivism gimmick: he treats racial, gay, and women’s issues as inseparable.

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell is 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.

I’ve been a fan of W. Kamau Bell’s for a little while now. I never watched Totally Biased, but I did watch United Shades of America, and his most recent Netflix special – both are amazing. I decided to listen to the audiobook version because it provided another source of entertainment on my walks home from work.  In my opinion try and opt for the audiobook version. It’s read by Bell, and adds an extra layer of hilarity that I don’t think you would get from reading it. 

I loved this book.  I’m normally quite picky at reading celebrity memoirs, but this memoir was structured in a way that was completely different than others. Bell discusses social and contemporary issues and uses instances from his life as examples. He has the ability to make you laugh one minute and then make you take a good hard look at yourself the next. 

What I really enjoyed about this memoir was how honest he was about his professional life and how it affected his personal life — mainly negatively. Most memoirs I’ve read tip toe around the difficulty of “having it all” or skim over it by saying things, “it was hard, but I made it through.” You know, the stereotypical response. But Bell was so unapologetically honest about how Totally Biased almost ruined his marriage and his mental health, and how CNN’s United Shades of America has its issues. He wasn’t afraid to go there, which is what I think readers want to hear. 

I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads and honestly if I could give it more stars, I would. Like I said before, I highly recommend listening to the audiobook. 


Until next time!

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