The essays in this collection are restless, brilliant and short; all but one are fewer than 10 pages. The brevity suits not just Walker’s style but his worldview, too. Longer pieces would require the kind of connective tissue that might risk turning the essays into closed systems, sealing off entries and exits. Keeping things quick gives him the freedom to move; he can alight on a truth without pinning it into place.
This act of reconciling the inherent humanity of Black people against the position they have been held in in American society is present in all of the essays of the collection; each deals with the effects of racism ... Some essays find the humor in awkward and uncomfortable situations ... The personal essays of How to Make a Slave and Other Essays consider what was gained and lost when Walker, a Black father and academic, sought to join America’s middle class.
... messy, composite, and complex ... Walker provides greater clarity for what it might mean to be a Black man in America by dismissing the linearity and simplicity that naming Blackness often produces. We cannot be surprised by the clear, yet complex, multitudinous approach Walker takes ... Walker’s voice isn’t gracious, but it is graceful and clear, never sparing the reader from the critical perspective that will help them unpack and deconstruct his experiences ... Throughout its pages, the collection asks us to consider how our varied life experiences shape our identities ... We see Walker ... This book is the ultimate testament to the fact that Walker has honed his skills, not by over-focusing on the dragons but instead by adeptly fashioning the tools to fight those dragons. We need to do the same.