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You Can Keep That to Yourself: A Comprehensive List of What Not to Say to Black People, for Well-Intentioned People of Pallor


At long last, a much-needed guidebook for well-intentioned people of pallor on what not to say to their African American “friends.”

$15.95 $11.96

What people are saying…

“This book is the perfect jumping-off point for much-needed conversations about how to be an anti-racist. It’s extremely short and very accessible. I wish I could give this book to everyone.”
—Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop (Staff pick!)

“The store’s favorite humor book of possibly the decade.”
The Book Table (Oak Park, IL)

“Using humor, Smyer relays harsh truths about U.S. race relations . . . With a tongue-in-cheek tone, Smyer offers an accessible critique of Whiteness in America . . . Smyer models for us how to use humor and candor to fight back against the microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations suffered by marginalized and racialized communities of color.”
Colors of Influence

“It reminds me of the dictionary, which is helpful because it is a dictionary in its own category. For its purpose of education and enjoyment, I say it met the mark.”
San Francisco Book Review

“This is a quick read that might be worth a periodic review. Old habits die hard. And it is probably worthwhile learning that we don’t have to say all we think or want to say. The truth is, black people have been doing that for a long time.”
Bob on Books

“As you can see the book is terse, pointed, and . . . It is also extremely funny.”

“By turns funny, sarcastic, and possibly true for many Black (and non-Black) Americans . . . While there is humor throughout, there is also a strong sense of anger, annoyance, and weariness when it comes to the Black experience in Trump’s America. And though Smyer is addressing white people specifically, his humor can be appreciated by anyone who needs a good chuckle (and an education).”
Library Journal

“A balm for tongues bitten and comments swallowed . . . A bitingly humorous compendium of the absurd subtle racism of the American workplace.”
Kirkus Reviews

“In this slim and witty volume, attorney Smyer collects an alphabetized short list of things not to say to African-Americans . . . Each entry is designed to strip away the hypocrisy and half-truths of these cultural exchanges by laughing at them. Smyer’s hilarious sampler offers astute observations on race and culture.”
Publishers Weekly

Critical praise for Knucklehead by Adam Smyer:

Adam Smyer was named the African American Literary Awards Show’s Break-Out Author of 2018 for Knucklehead!

“By setting his novel in the ’90s, Smyer, who lives in Oakland, has crafted some brutal déjà vu. As Marcus reflects on Rodney King, the Million Man March and the Oklahoma City bombing, we think of Freddie Gray, Black Lives Matter and school shootings that have become a way of life. And when Marcus laments San Francisco’s dwindling black population, here we are more than 20 years on, and it’s only gotten worse. We should all be furious.”
San Francisco Chronicle


Greetings, well-intentioned person of pallor.

Your good intentions used to be enough. But in these diverse and divisive times, some people would hold you accountable for your actions. You were not raised for such unfairness. You need help. And help you now have.

Let Daquan—that black coworker you are referring to when you claim to have black friends—help you navigate perilous small talk with African Americans with this handy field guide. This portable bit of emotional labor puts at your fingertips a tabbed and alphabetized list of things not to say to black people. Finally!

How to use: Keep this handbook close. Whenever you are confronted with an African American and you feel compelled to blurt out an observation about her hair or to liken your Tesla lease to slavery, ask for a moment to consult this reference. She’ll wait. If the keen insight you want to share is listed herein, You Can Keep That to Yourself. It truly is that easy!

Watch a PSA inspired by You Can Keep That to Yourself:

Watch an interview with Adam Smyer on Chicago, IL’s WGN Morning News.

Read a feature interview with Adam Smyer at the San Francisco Examiner

Read an interview with Adam Smyer at DIYMFA.

Listen to interviews with Adam Smyer on Ask a Leader (KUCI 88.9 FM, Irvine, CA), Stephanie Miller’s Happy Hour Podcast, the Colors of Influence podcast, DIYMFA, and The Writers Grotto’s GrottoPod

Listen to a taped event with Adam Smyer and Irma Herrera hosted by Greenlight Bookstore.





Book Details

  • Hardcover: 136 pages
  • Published: 9/1/20
  • IBSN: 9781617758966
  • e-IBSN: 9781617758973


ADAM SMYER is an attorney, martial artist, and mediocre bass player. His nonfiction has appeared in the Johannesburg Review of Books, and his debut novel, Knucklehead, was the sole title short-listed for the 2018 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Smyer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and cats. You Can Keep That to Yourself is his latest work.

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