William Evans and Omar Holmon, founders of the Black Nerd Problems website, offer a book with many of the website’s brilliant op-eds. After a brief introduction to themselves and what it means to be a nerd, authors Evans and Holmon take readers on a journey across a variety of topics and descriptive titles, like “I Read Mark Millar’s Jupiter’s Legacy and I Saw the Father I Am and the Father I Hope I Never Have to Be” allow for readers to jump to the essays that most readily pique their interest.
Eschewing a long biography, Black Nerd Problems: Essays instead lets the authors speak of their lives through their work and their passions. Holmon’s “Y’all Mind if I Wyl Out over Black Love and POC Love Real Quick?” is both a love letter to the relationship between Black Panther and Storm as well as a lament of the divorce. Holmon deftly guides the reader through his elation at seeing a Black power couple in Marvel comics and the dismay at seeing it broken up for a crossover event that has largely been forgotten. Holmon highlights the rarity of Black couples within the Marvel universe, and the disposable nature of Black characters that often are secondary to white protagonists. Elsewhere, Evans investigates the desire of Black consumers to defend Black art in “The Want to Protect Taraji’s Proud Mary, Critiquing the Choir, and How We Judge Black Art.”
The genuine passion of the authors comes through on every page, even as they employ different writing styles in their essays. Evans’ “Do You Have a Moment to Talk About Our Lord and Savior Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn?” is written in a frenetic style that echoes the chaos of some of the game’s battles. Other essays are written as a conversation between both authors, allowing for the back-and-forth conversations at the center of all things nerdy.
The wide array of subject matter also means that not every reference is going to land with every reader, something the authors acknowledge in the book’s intro. However, the storytelling employed by the authors means that one is never lost. While I am a boxing fan, I’ve never read Hajime no Ippo and yet Omar Holmon’s “Hajime no Ippo Is Just a Manga About Boxing but I’m Over Here Crying My Guts Out” was one of the strongest essays to me, especially as Holmon recounted his struggles in track and field and related them to Ippo’s journey in the manga. This is perhaps the biggest strength of Black Nerd Problems: on every page, there is a reference that could perhaps lead you to your next nerdy love.
In Black Nerd Problems: Essays, Omar Holmon and William Evans deftly add humor to this exploration of the Black nerd sphere. This will be no surprise to readers of their website — indeed, some of the essays in this book are pulled from the site itself (though attentive readers will note that these essays have been altered). The humor balances the seriousness of the subject matter, allowing for a better, more intimate understanding of the authors’ passions. By taking readers through feelings of disappointment, elation, confusion, and pure unbridled joy, Holmon and Evans make Black Nerd Problems an incredibly cathartic read and a must have for anyone that appreciates what it is to be a nerd.
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