Thick: And Other Essays

by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Hardcover, 2019

Call number




The New Press (2019), Edition: Reprint, 256 pages


Essays. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:One of Book Riot's "The Best Books We Read in October 2018" "To say this collection is transgressive, provocative, and brilliant is simply to tell you the truth." �??Roxane Gay, author of Hunger and Bad Feminist Smart, humorous, and strikingly original essays by one of "America's most bracing thinkers on race, gender, and capitalism of our time" (Rebecca Traister) In these eight piercing explorations on beauty, media, money, and more, Tressie McMillan Cottom�??award-winning professor and acclaimed author of Lower Ed�??embraces her venerated role as a purveyor of wit, wisdom, and Black Twitter snark about all that is right and much that is wrong with this thing we call society. Ideas and identity fuse effortlessly in this vibrant collection that on bookshelves is just as at home alongside Rebecca Solnit and bell hooks as it is beside Jeff Chang and Janet Mock. It also fills an important void on those very shelves: a modern black American feminist voice waxing poetic on self and society, serving up a healthy portion of clever prose and southern aphorisms as she covers everything from Saturday Night Live, LinkedIn, and BBQ Becky to sexual violence, infant mortality, and Trump rallies. Thick speaks fearlessly to a range of topics and is far more genre-bending than a typical compendium of personal essays. An intrepid intellectual force hailed by the likes of Trevor Noah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Oprah, Tressie McMillan Cottom is "among America's most bracing thinkers on race, gender, and capitalism of our time" (Rebecca Traister). This stunning debut collection�??in all its intersectional glory�??mines for meaning in places many of us miss, and reveals precisely how the political, the social, and the personal are almost always one and… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member rivkat
A collection merging Cottom’s “thick description” with the politics of blackness. She didn’t conceive of these as personal essays, even though “the personal essay had become the way that black women writers claim legitimacy in a public discourse that defines itself, in part, by how well
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it excludes black women.” She discusses the negative reactions she got from black women when she described herself as unattractive; she resists the idea that she could be “beautiful” under racism and capitalism, because the aspiration would make her into a market subject and she wants to name what’s been done to her. The hardest essay to read is about the death of her newborn, which was preceded by pain and bleeding and healthcare professionals assuming she was incompetent and later berating her for not telling them something was wrong earlier (she did, but they didn’t understand her symptoms as important)—I’ve experienced a fraction of this treatment as a white woman, but for black women it routinely kills their babies.

Cottom also writes about universities’ expectations that black “ethnic” students (immigrants or children of immigrants) will do better than U.S. black students, and points out that we are “generally cherrypicking the winners of extreme social stratification in other countries through our admissions processes.” The most bitterly hilarious part is the essay on why she wants banal black women writers at elite outlets, “since David Brooks wrote 865 words about how gourmet sandwiches are ruining America in the New York effing Times.That was 593 words more than the Gettysburg Address and about 365 words more than we allow poor students to write about their neediness on many scholarship applications.” Otherwise, the great black women intellectuals she knows will continue doing second-, third-, and fourth-shift work to get published in the same places, instead of benefits and a salary—the bind is that you get exposure but only by contributing to writers’ economic precarity, but that bind is unequally distributed.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
What distinguishes Thick from other well-written books by black women academics (Brittney Cook, Ijeoma Oluo, Morgan Jenkins)? Her fierce and targeted criticism of how black women are shut out of the hierarchy of success in America, especially in journalism. As McMillan states, until the New York
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Times hired Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow), the Times had NEVER had a woman of color as a regular opinion writer.

Each of the seven chapters takes issue with a specific painful topic for women of color: perceived beauty, the danger of childbirth, entering white spaces, African-Americans vs black immigrants, the lure of status symbols, rape, and David Brooks of the New York Times. The power of her words can feel like a whip across the face, as does how Cottom defines when black women "become a problem" a/k/a speak up and lead movements of change and disruption.

Quotes: "Privileged people feel that it is easier to fix me than to fix the world."

"What pleases us is any technocratic fairytale of how we can network enough to offset unstable employment."

"The paradox of how we could elect Obama AND Trump is not how black Obama is or isn't. It is how white he is, or is not. White voters needed only to have faith in Obama and in his willingness to reflect their ideal selves back at them, to change blackness without being black to them."

"The act of being conservative necessitates an undesirable progress against which it can rebel."

"I had properly signaled that I was not a typical black or a typical woman, two identities that in combination are almost always conflated with being poor."

"R. Kelly was an unlikely crossover artist, mostly based on a horrible song in which he believed he could fly. It is just the type of inspirational, soulless black music that corporations love. It made R. Kelly a safe negro for millions of white consumers while his reputation as a sexual predator was solidifying in black communities."

'We do not share much in the U.S. culture of individualism except our delusions of meritocracy. God help my people, but I can talk to hundreds of black folk who have been systematically separated from their money, citizenship, and personhood and hear at least eighty stories about how no one is to blame but themselves."
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LibraryThing member muddyboy
A very insightful collection of essays about "blackness" in America. They focus a wide variety of topics including black women's struggle for inclusion in the literary world, the mental and physical abuse of black women and a great essay titled "Know Your Whites' . I am a sixty plus year old white
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male but the writing is so strong that I enjoyed it. I also learned a lot from a perspective outside my normal comfort zone. A great read.
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LibraryThing member Rubygarnet
Excellent thoughtful essays about being Black, female, a minority, and all of the above in these United States. Sending it onwards to help other people.
LibraryThing member RickGeissal
This is a great book, eye-opening and intensely clear about being a black girl, then a black woman in the USA. Ms. Cottom knows so much and expresses her experience and knowledge in ways that I can understand.
LibraryThing member BibliophageOnCoffee
My original plan was to leisurely read one essay a day from this collection, but instead I tore through it in less than 24 hours. These essays are so engaging and just excellent overall. I was aware of the issues discussed in this collection on a very surface level, but now I have a much deeper
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understanding. I hope this wins the National Book Award. I loved it.
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National Book Award (Finalist — Nonfiction — 2019)
Reading Women Award (Shortlist — Nonfiction — 2019)
Brooklyn Public Library Book Prize (Shortlist — Nonfiction — 2019)
BookTube Prize (Octofinalist — Nonfiction — 2020)
Virginia Literary Awards (Finalist — Nonfiction — 2020)




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