Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man's Education

In this impassioned memoir, the Nation writer Mychal Denzel Smith lays forth his experiences coming of age in the United States as a black man. Growing up, Smith's parents encouraged him to be "twice as good." He recalls, at age 18, watching Barack Obama's 2004 Democratic National Convention speech and being unimpressed: "[Obama] was emerging as the kind of figure I had been taught to admire, but I did everything to reject the moment I started seeing the world differently."

Smith's view of the world is shaped more by the teachings of Malcolm X, the hip-hop music of Mos Def and, later, Kanye West, the art of Aaron McGruder and the entertainment of Dave Chappelle. Through these influences and horrific, racially charged events such as Jena Six and the murder of Trayvon Martin, Smith frames an ideology fueled by frustration and rage.

But behind the fury, Smith identifies a rampant metal health problem plaguing the U.S. black population, caused in part by the continuing stigma toward those with mental health issues and lack of access to good care. He details his own experience with panic attacks and depression throughout high school and college, as well as eventually learning about his "survivor's guilt."

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching skillfully illustrates how racism in the U.S. affects young black men. Readers may find Smith's generalizations about "America" too broad, but if they look deeper, they'll see the issues that desperately need everyone's attention and action. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

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