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Book review: Black Friend: Essays by Ziwe


By Rony Junior El Daccache

Embrace the cringe: something unique to say

Celine Dion is definitely the stand out protagonist in Ziwe’s debut book of personal essays Black Friend: Essays. Unfortunately, I am not referring to the Canadian legendary singer, but Ziwe’s Chow Chow whom she adopted with hopes to utilise it as a defence against racist street harassment. Unfortunately for Ziwe, the idea backfired instantly as Dion ended up being too adorable to strike any fear into anyone.

Ziwe’s debut invites readers into a world where humour meets witty social commentary. While prior knowledge or interest in her work may enhance the experience, her debut is a compelling read for anybody on the hunt for entertainment and enlightenment. I am a fan of Ziwe and have been since she began infamously asking guests on her Instagram lives “how many black friends do you have?” during the pandemic and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Her ability to tackle complex subjects with satire and a hyper-feminine persona is truly addictive. You get to laugh, feel deep-rooted discomfort and learn something all at the same time.

In the book, she delves into a spectrum of experiences, from grappling with the obstacles of the entertainment industry, the mispronunciation of her name, the irony of facing racism at a screening of a movie adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk, to her culturally nuanced upbringing by Nigerian parents in America. Her rawness gives fans like myself a behind the scenes look into her life and leaves a lasting impression on newcomers.

Among the many many tales of rising stars, Ziwe’s narrative stands out as particularly authentic, at least to me. When she writes about “embracing the cringe” and the necessity for multiple opportunities to achieve success, they linger in my mind. Her reflections resonate deeply with my generation and many communities that often face barriers to success. In the same essay, Ziwe also says, “I realised that my life experiences had offered me the merit of something unique to say,” and I couldn’t agree more.

The result is that you cannot fail to see Ziwe’s brilliance and fresh perspectives in Black Friend: Essays. If you’re already a fan of her viral interviews, well done. If you’re discovering her work for the first time, welcome aboard.


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