In the summer of 1972, when Brian Copeland was eight, his family moved from Oakland to San Leandro, CA, hoping for a better life. At the time, San Leandro was 99.99% white and widely considered to be one of the most racist enclaves in the nation. This reputation was confirmed almost immediately: Brian got his first look at the inside of a cop car, forced into the backseat after walking to the park with a baseball bat in hand. Days later, Brian was turned away by several barbers who said "we don't cut that kind of hair." And that Christmas, while shopping at a local department store, Brian was accused of stealing and forced to empty his pockets in front of store security.
It was a time that Brian spent his adult years trying to forget, until one day an anonymous letter arrived that forced him to reevaluate his childhood: "As an African American, I am disgusted every time I hear your voice because YOU are not a genuine black man!"
A poignant, hilarious, and disarming memoir about growing up black in an all-white suburb, Not a Genuine Black Man is also a powerful contemplation on the meaning of race, and a thoughtful examination of how our surroundings make us who we are.