"A must-read book that gleefully
blows past the boundaries of tentative
talk on current race relations"
- BUST Magazine
A hilarious and satirical
look at race relations that is almost too close for comfort, this pseudo-guidebook gives both renters and rentals "much-needed" advice and tips on technique. Tips are provided in step-by-step outlines for renters to get the most for their money, and how rentals can become successful and wealthy, what they should wear, and topics of conversation to avoid. The book also serves up photo-dramatizations of some of the popular approaches covered in the book, handy tip-boxes, frequently asked questions for renters and rentals, a "How do I know if I'm being rented" quiz, a glossary of important terms, and "quickie" insta-rentals for those who need to rent on the go.
How to Rent a Negro does what low-brow comedy and high-brow intellectualism have failed to do - reach people and hold their attention. The 100% reality-based satire engages and enthralls while never letting them off the hook through dismissive humor or inaccessible language. The challenge this book issues comes from an author who believes in learning and exchange, who wants to see the United States "live up to its potential." This book carves a new territory- offering real opportunities for dialogue and maybe even...progress.
THE NATION "...here are my three favorite summer reads. Top of the list is performance artist damali ayo's How to Rent a Negro, just out from Lawrence Hill Books. It's a very funny expansion of the concept explored on her popular website, rent-a-negro.com--witty, empathetic, unsettling, hilarious. A kind of Miss Manners for the racially isolated yet yearning to connect.- Patricia J. Williams
BUST MAGAZINE "Damali Ayo's scathing, satirical website, rent-a-negro.com, has been spun into a must-read book that gleefully blows past the boundaries of tentative talk on current race relations into cringe-inducing, too-close-for-comfort commentary. Often hilarious, mostly disturbing, always shocking, this book is a riveting sociological study that will have you questioning your own "race-dar" from the first page. Ayo tackles the prickly concept of "casual" racism perpetuated predominately by whites towards blacks in an unsettling way.
Worth the price of the book alone has to be "Dear Rent-A-Negro," with unexpurgated letters to Ayo's website. Ayo calls herself and "honest manipulator," and her pseudo-guidebook underscores this by fully exploring inherent racism and its ugliness in a way that will challenge every reader."
PUNK PLANET The relentlessly smart and wickedly humorous How to Rent a Negro argues that black people are being used all the time anyway so they might as well get paid for the service. The book offers many helpful pointers for people on both sides of the potential business arrangement.
One of the "Common questions you'll have to answer," specifically written for black people putting themselves up for rent is "Why are you always talking about racism? Can't you just relax? I tell people not to talk about race around black people 'cause you'll get really angry and call them racist." This is really the core of what Ayo is attacking, in her humor-laden prose. She takes a whispered-about subject like race relations and not only addresses what's going on in America, but loudly parodies these very real tensions.
Again, I want to emphasize how funny and how important this book is. How to Rent a Negro never loses focus, and the instructional tone never wavers. Included are a sample invoice ("compare skin tones_$100 per comparison x __ times = $___"), a glossary for renters, textbook-looking photographs illustrating common gaffes, and letters written to Ayo in response to her website, rent-a-negro.com.
RUMINATOR As the good folks at The Daily Show have made clear, the best satire is transparent, sitting back and letting the absurdities of its subject do the talking. Which is why conceptual artist damali ayo’s How To Rent A Negro, an offshoot of her rent-a-negro.com web site, is so successful. Its sly concept—that it’s illegal to actually own another person, but renting is perfectly okay—works on a couple of levels, damning tokenism while also pointing out how little has actually changed in the arena of race relations.
And while this could come off strident, ayo’s straightfaced style helps bring the comedy off—the book’s laid out in a perfect deadpan of a corporate guidebook, with careful, PC management-speak directed towards both renters (“Why not take the only black employee out to lunch?”) and rentals (“Avoid asking your renter about the secrets to their financial success …. There are some things renters just don’t want to share”), and hilarious price and invoicing guides for services like “The Hair Grab,” “The Blame Game” and, of course, the valuable “Tell Them I’m Not A Racist” voucher. Uncomfortable? Sure. But How To Rent a Negro is also funny, biting and valuable. —Matt Konrad
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AMAZON.COM CUSTOMER REVIEWS "A rare and fantastic and necessary book. And a great pleasure to read! Take notes if you need to."
"Funniest and most helpful book I've read on black-white racial interactions in the USA.....Must reading for all Americans. Could well be the "Little Black Book" that finally starts the honest dialog black and white Americans must begin in order to make us all whole again"
"Sadly I have rented my share of people. I have...done a great deal of the things in this book. It is fun to laugh at oneself and still learn from it. A slap in my face and a healthy knock from my hypersensitive liberal high horse."
"I bought this because it looked funny, irreverent and possibly a bit discomforting to liberal readers (of which I am one.) It is all these things."
"As a 37- year old black female, the book rings true to my racial experiences in this country. How many times can a white person ask me about my hair, skin color and what it is like to be with a black man. How many times has a white person told me with amazement that I am polite, pretty, articulate and well traveled?"
"Read it and start thinking about how you can make some extra money as a beautiful black person."
"How to Rent a Negro is a book that can help us with these questions, all while laughing so hard we want to pee our pants."
KOMO TV NEWS "What's exciting about the title to me," [ayo] told talk show host Bill O'Reilly recently, "is that I use the word 'negro' very deliberately. That's because the kinds of behaviors we're talking about in the book should be outdated, just as the word negro." I can tell you this, it got conversations going in our newsroom. -John Sharify, KOMO TV news, seattle
THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER "Ayo's book teases out the foibles of racial dissonance with penetrating subtlety. And by introducing the mock notion that being the token black at a party - or validating whites' self-congratulatory ideas about not being racist - can be a billable service provided by a qualified professional contractor, "How to Rent a Negro" has wonderful fun with the whole mess. The genius of this premise, however, is that it frames everything in the setting of mainstream business culture, making everyone look a tad absurd. All in all, this is more than a clever book by a more-than-talented young voice."- Jake Spatz
BOOKSandWORDS.COM BEST BOOK OF SUMMER 2005 A truly hysterical and insightful book of ‘new school’ Black satire and social commentary springs from ‘old school’ Black humor. Author and performance artist damali ayo taps the consciousness and funny bone of Black and White relations with a handbook for transacting business from awkward ethnic questions and situations. How to Rent a Negro is the rare book where everyone gets the clever message, and will be seriously enlightened and inspired through laughter. Satirists Godfrey Cambridge to Dave Chappelle, and intellects Bertice Berry to Cornel West would be proud. A funny must-have manual for the millennium of ‘diversity.’
THE O'REILLY FACTOR I understand that the book is satirical, but there is a serious side to it as well. - Bill O'Reilly (that's right, Bill O'Reilly) Watch the interview