Thick: And Other Essays (Paperback)
“Being too much of one thing and not enough of another has been a recurring thing in my life,” writes Tressie McMillan Cottom. This is how the author describes being “thick.” A man at a bar called her this, so she has turned it into the theme of her essay collection. Being “thick” was to be uncategorizable, to have contradictions, to exist in a space that wasn’t made for you. Cottom’s response is to redefine. “Thick” is to have intellectual power and be full in your humanity.
“Before I was a real academic, I was a black woman, and before I was a black woman, I was a black girl.” This is the thread woven throughout the collection. The essays switch easily between personal narrative and scholarly observation, between educational and dissentiate (what does this mean?) voices. Funny, heartbreaking and raw, each one tackles gender, race, and capitalism without pulling any punches. They will make you think. They will check your privilege. And they will call you to action.
One essay that stands out is “Dying to Be Competent,” which encompasses the range of Cottom’s talent. It begins as a funny and almost lighthearted anecdote about LinkedIn as “exemplar of the promises technology makes that neoliberalism can never fulfill,” and then shifts to the horrifying account of her experiences as a black woman deemed incompetant in her ability to advocate for her own body during her pregnancy. It concludes with a scathing critique of capitalist systems that require incompetence in order to generate profit.
The essays are more than thought-provoking; they are urgent. If you are white, they may be a punch to the gut of any white privilege you possess. Embrace it. Dismantling such an intricate system in ourselves and society requires those deliberate punches. Reading is a small aid in that process. I put Tressie McMillan Cottom’s voice here before you in hopes that you will always seek to challenge yourself and others in this way.— Carmen
FINALIST FOR THE 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
Named a notable book of 2019 by the New York Times Book Review, Chicago Tribune, Time, and The Guardian
As featured by The Daily Show, NPR, PBS, CBC, Time, VIBE, Entertainment Weekly, Well-Read Black Girl, and Chris Hayes, incisive, witty, and provocative essays (Publishers Weekly) by one of the most bracing thinkers on race, gender, and capitalism of our time (Rebecca Traister)
Thick is sure to become a classic. --The New York Times Book Review
In eight highly praised treatises on beauty, media, money, and more, Tressie McMillan Cottom--award-winning professor and acclaimed author of Lower Ed--is unapologetically thick: deemed thick where I should have been thin, more where I should have been less, McMillan Cottom refuses to shy away from blending the personal with the political, from bringing her full self and voice to the fore of her analytical work. Thick transforms narrative moments into analyses of whiteness, black misogyny, and status-signaling as means of survival for black women (Los Angeles Review of Books) with writing that is as deft as it is amusing (Darnell L. Moore).
This transgressive, provocative, and brilliant (Roxane Gay) collection cements McMillan Cottom's position as a public thinker capable of shedding new light on what the personal essay can do. She turns her chosen form into a showcase for her critical dexterity, investigating everything from Saturday Night Live, LinkedIn, and BBQ Becky to sexual violence, infant mortality, and Trump rallies.
Collected in an indispensable volume that speaks to the everywoman and the erudite alike, these unforgettable essays never fail to be painfully honest and gloriously affirming and hold a mirror to your soul and to that of America (Dorothy Roberts).