With season three of The Amber Ruffin Show recently wrapped and the series’ future not yet secure (please renew The Amber Ruffin Show, Peacock!), the next few Fridays might be on the bleak side (unless season four is announced, and then Christmas comes early this year). Add to that the news that Late Night with Seth Meyers is airing reruns this week (Ruffin is one of the show’s writers) and it only gets worse (not that time off for the holidays doesn’t make sense, but bah humbug).
So what can Amber Ruffin fans do to fill the void and get through this (hopefully temporary) hiatus? Read the book she wrote with her older sister, Lacey Lamar – You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey – and then pick-up their follow-up title, The World Record Book of Racist Stories.
Unlike the Guinness Book of World Records (which some people spend a lifetime trying to get into), Ruffin and Lamar have written a book full of awards nobody should want to win. They’re all terrible. While You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey focused on racist encounters that Amber and Lacey experienced firsthand (and they haven’t run out – book two includes more personal stories from them, some old but others so fresh they happened in between publishing You’ll Never Believe and writing this one), The World Record Book of Racist Stories sees Amber and Lacey open the floor to other members of their family. Just like Amber and Lacey have stories, their parents and siblings do, too, like the time a white couple at church thought they should tell Angie (then 18) that she looked like Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind.
Here’s a story from the book that Lacey shared on Late Night with Seth Meyers about trying to buy a car:
There’s even holiday-themed racism, as when Amber lived in Amsterdam:
While the stories aren’t all their own this time, the book is still entirely written in Amber and Lacey’s voices, using the same technique as the first book (two different fonts to indicate when Lacey or Amber is speaking). While it might have been cool to hear from some of the other Ruffins directly, it is interesting to see how memory plays a role in this volume, whether it’s Amber or Lacey jogging another family member’s memory, or Amber or Lacey being reminded of their own stories after hearing someone else have a similar experience. As Amber writes at one point in chapter three, the fact that her mom has forgotten some stories speaks to how many there have been.
Maybe the boldness of people, or the double standards on display in this book, should be shocking. They both are and aren’t. Amber and Lacey continue to use their trademark humor to find the absurdity in these horrible stories, where laughter, tears, and hard truths co-exist. Even the most jaded, cynical person will be disturbed and frightened, yet Amber and Lacey remain hilarious.
There’s no place that’s safe or beyond racism (just ask Angie, a reverend who’s had to deal with racist parishioners). It’s pervasive (exhibit a: the different generations of Ruffins who all have racist stories to tell). It’s demoralizing, like the time Lacey was pulled over and told that she didn’t look like her driver’s license photo. What do you do with that? Take another photo? Why? What would prevent the same thing from happening again?
It’s not on Ruffin and Lamar to solve racism, but maybe calling racist behavior out for what it is and showing the different forms it takes is the first step. The Ruffins are speaking up. Their book is a gift to a world that needs to get its act together and acknowledge how often racist incidents take place (and how often without consequences).
The World Record Book of Racist Stories is available now from Grand Central Publishing (as well as in audiobook form).
With season three of The Amber Ruffin Show recently wrapped and the series’ future not yet secure (please renew TheCOMICONRead More