Review by Diana Lu
YOUTUBE–Cyrus McQueen used to be just your everyday standup comedian of Last Comic Standing fame. In the Age of Trump, he’s also become Twitter-famous as a cultural critic, offering race and politics analyses and wisecracks 280 characters at a time. He’s developed his experiences over the last four years into a first book, Tweeting Truth to Power: Chronicling our Caustic Politics, Crazed Times, & The Great Black & White Divide, which is supposed to be equal parts memoir and political discourse.
With the help of FPTC, McQueen did a live reading of his book and a Q&A session on YouTube. In the reading, McQueen shared some of his favorite Twitter posts and read a couple of anecdotes from his book. The Livestream was organized well, and the reading and audience participation were handled smoothly and without any technical difficulties. It was a very enjoyable experience, more intimate and engaging than in-person readings often are.
McQueen is a natural storyteller. He reads his book with such obvious joy and energy, it was as if he lifted his family members off the page and into the room with him. It was clear how much affection he had for his subjects and for his writing from the enthusiasm with which he shared it. Successful comedians often pay a ghostwriter to write their books, but McQueen is someone who did all the work himself–and loved every minute of it. I felt that there were too many five-dollar words, and I don’t know if I’d want to read the whole thing. I do know that I would listen to Cyrus read the entirety in an audiobook, perhaps even binging the whole thing in one evening.
The excerpts McQueen chose to read were vivid and enjoyable anecdotes from his life, but they didn’t give me a sense of how well the book achieved its expansive and ambitious goals. In Tweeting Truth to Power, McQueen aims to examine “the past 4 years of the Trump era, the past 400 years of Black life in North America, while also delving into the past 40 years of [his] life in order to flesh out an accurate rendering of what it means to be a Black American in the early 21st century.”
In the reading, I greatly appreciated when McQueen stated several times that Trump isn’t the end all be all, that he’s not an anomaly and things aren’t going to “go back to normal” any time soon. He said that the past 4 years are a part of a continuum of oppression he’s experienced his whole life and that has been at the heart of the Black American experience, and he doesn’t want people to push these last four years out of their minds and pretend like they never happened, no matter how much we’d like to forget.
That is a powerful message, but the heft and gravity of that message didn’t match the more shallow spirit of the passages he read. Nor do most of his tweets for that matter. Most of the ones I read are jabs at Trump.
Here’s one I particularly liked, however:
“Just as many presumed we were in a ‘post-racial’ society because Obama won, the biggest mistake we can now make is assuming we are in a ‘post-racist’ society just because Trump lost…”
McQueen is an engaging performer and an insightful intellectual who is more than capable of the deep, nuanced analysis that his book claims to deliver. I just hope that he can convey more in long-form than the snippets I’ve seen thus far.
Buy Cyrus McQueen’s book HERE.