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).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
“Black women are rational and human,” writes sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom, and in a perfect world, this statement would be treated as fact. But in eight searing essays, Cottom defends this thesis over and over again. She describes the various spaces in which black women have been viewed as irrational and incompetent: the doctor’s office, the world of academia, and even their own homes. Citing staggering statistics and the works of notable scholars like Michelle Alexander and bell hooks, Cottom constructs winning arguments for why this particular demographic deserves to be taken seriously. Along the way, she also tackles other complex matters like society’s fixation with superficial beauty, the elasticity of whiteness, and the election of Barack Obama—and weaves in sharp observations about her own experiences as a black woman. Savvy and voice-driven, Thick is more than a personal essay collection—it’s a manifesto.
In eight incisive, witty, and provocative essays, Cottom (Lower Ed), a Virginia Commonwealth University assistant sociology professor, highlights structural inequalities and explores the black female experience in contemporary America. She lucidly reflects on her personal story, as the daughter of parents who moved north to Harlem, where she was born, then back to the South. To this, she adds data and research, showing, for instance, that regardless of education level, black women are commonly treated as "incompetent" in the health care system, where they are "243% more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than white women." Cottom goes on to observe that black women and girls fear speaking up about sexual abuse, due to the extra "burden of protecting the reputations of black boys and men" and that, despite "generations of earned and inherited moral philosophy that has sustained families, communities and institutions," aren't seen as authorities on much of anything. Other topics include LinkedIn as an emblem of neoliberalism's failure, tensions between African-Americans and black people from other countries, and how beauty and self-esteem are treated as commodities. The collection showcases Cottom's wisdom and originality and amply fulfills her aim of telling "powerful stories that become a problem for power." Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated this book was the author's first.