Essays & Memoir
Amazingly honest and raw like a James Baldwin essay. I couldn't put it down nor be unaffected emotionally.
No collection of essays I have ever read has made me care or feel for the subjects like the ones in this book. Abdurraqib can enthrall you with a single sentence, whether he's describing the glory of Prince or the scrappiness of the emo kids from Ohio he grew up with. There is so much I want to say about this book, about its tenderness, about its passion, but any summary would not do it justice. Read an essay, any essay in here, and try to not to feel the pain and grace he manages to tuck inside every single word.
One of the incomparable reads of the year, with great, elegiac passages and one of the most unique, considered points-of-view you'll experience. What Als appears to be getting at is taking an essence of oneself and filtering it through an otherness, an alternate perspective, through which one might find joy, personal enlightenment. It could just as well be called Black Boys (or gay black boys), Sisters, or White Men. Yes, "white girls", for sure, but also gay men, black mothers, Eminem, and Malcolm X (or his half-caucasian mother).
Searing, brilliant, true: Poetry and essay conjoined at the heart. Threaded through with powerful art by Carrie Mae Weems, Wangechi Mutu, John Lucas, and others, Citizen becomes artifact and evidence as Rankineconfronts the trope of racial invisibility imbedded in our "shared" history, language, and culture. Whether channeling the broken voices of Hurricane Katrina survivors, or unpacking the ubiquitous, casual racism of white "peers," there's a pervasive sense of incredulity, always and forever choked by reality: "Did I hear what I think I heard? Did that just come out of my mouth, his mouth, your mouth?" Rankine realizes, "The world is wrong. You can't put the past behind you. It's buried in you; it's turned your flesh into its own cupboard." Despite being embalmed in an acid bath of racism, we fugitive citizens stumble on.
Zora Neale Hurston travels around the Caribbean in the 1930s, and gets way into voodoo. Part diary, part ethnography, part political commentary, this book is amazing.
Most of the voice-over narration of the new Baldwin doc is lifted from this, a sustained rumination on film and how it crystallizes, refracts and reproduces panic regarding race, gender and sexuality: "I doubt that Americans will ever be able to face the fact that the word, homosexual, is not a noun. The root of this word, as Americans use it - or, as this word uses Americans - simply involves a terror of any human touch, since any human touch can change you. A black man and a white man can come together only in the absence of women; which is, simply, the American legend of masculinity brought to its highest pressure, and revealed, as it were, in black and white."
Morgan Jerkins is a new writer to watch out for. Her first collection of essays examines, with compassion and bravery, her experience of black womanhood and its broader political and historical context.
Do yourself the favor. It's a uniquely American epic following X from childhood church pews to Harlem hustling and all the way to Mecca. It's compulsively readable and as relevant as ever.
Hilarious and deep, basically Trevor Noah in print. Take a deep dive into South African history, contemporary culture, as well as the deep complexities of colonization and religion, domestic violence, and race, all in Trevor's voice, with his own personal outrageous life stories to boot. I laughed. I cried. Literally. A quick but, thoughtful read.
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. Poetic, poignant, full of grace. Honest, moving, funny, unapologetic and yet deeply humble. Perry paints an incredible portrait of black motherhood, and of the complexities and beauties of being black in America. Tackling faith, Blackness, Americanness, gender, passion, striving, identity, being, and becoming, processing questions all of us have had to work through as we find our place in the world. It will surely be a gift to you.
His best work was always the Atlantic essays. Here, ‘Reparations,’ the ‘White President’ afterword, an essay on Michelle, and his obsession with Civil War (corrective) history. The weakness of what should be the centerpiece — the incarceration of black men essay — almost derails the entire book. But his point-of-view is so direct, powerful, and meaningful, that it incinerates any hard shell of prosaic or logic bloat. You have to read this brother even when he’s lost narratively. America should.