Since its publication in 1996, "Basic Black" has served as a go-to etiquette guide for black Americans. Now the newly revised edition, "The...
Since its publication in 1996, “Basic Black” has served as a go-to etiquette guide for black Americans. Now the newly revised edition, “The New Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times” (Doubleday, $29.95), is designed to be even more relevant.
Written for “real people with real lives,” the book sets out to help people feel comfortable in unfamiliar situations — and confident enough to make others feel comfortable, too.
It’s hard to imagine that authors Karen Grigsby Bates and Karen Elyse Hudson have left out any situation.
Their straightforward, practical advice fills more than 500 pages and 40 chapters, each stuffed with quick-hit tips on topics including conventional etiquette (table settings and hostessing, for example), traditions (joining a church, mentoring a youth) and even more-delicate areas (race in the workplace, handling racial slurs).
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From Part I (“Your Mother Was Right! Remembering the Good Advice You Got ‘Back When’ “), the authors tackle communicating, life lessons, milestones and more, wrapping up with Part VIII (“And Furthermore: More Proof Your Mother Was Right!”).
Their premise? Yeah — your mother was right.
And while that premise purports that good manners (the “Home Training” of the subtitle) transcend social status, race and gender, this book acknowledges the unique culture of black Americans — and speaks directly to it.
For example, in a topic titled, “When There’s Only You, or a Very Few,” the authors advise: “Don’t assume the burden for the race — although, in all likelihood, it will be handed to you from time to time anyway. Try to be patient with people who want to know how ‘all black people think.’ “
Bates, a correspondent for NPR’s “Day to Day,” and Hudson, author of an etiquette column, also speak directly to men with special tips titled, “And Brother, Remember” sprinkled through the book.
New to this edition is a segment titled “Looking Forward,” which deals with life after 9/11 (including racial profiling and travel tips), new technology (cellphones, e-mail), personal well-being (relationships, finances, health) and raising children (team sports, family traditions, bullies).
The book ends with a bonus section of questions and answers, a list of “Things We Love” (houseguests who make their beds), a list of “Don’t You Dare” (peek in anyone’s medicine cabinet) and an etiquette glossary.
Each segment begins with an inspirational quote, and occasional black-and-white line drawings illustrate specific concepts.
“The New Basic Black” is mighty text-heavy but, as the authors acknowledge, it’s not meant to be read in one sitting; instead, use it as you need it, for the basics — and beyond.