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Thick: And Other Essays

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Smart, humorous, and strikingly original thoughts on race, beauty, money, and more—by one of today's most intrepid public intellectuals

Tressie McMillan Cottom, the writer, professor, and acclaimed author of Lower Ed, now brilliantly shifts gears from running regression analyses on college data to unleashing another identity: a purveyor of wit, wisdom—and of course Black Twitter snark—about all that is right and much that is so very wrong about this thing we call society. In the bestselling tradition of bell hooks and Roxane Gay, McMillan Cottom’s freshman collection illuminates a particular trait of her tribe: being thick. In form, and in substance.

This bold compendium, likely to find its place on shelves alongside Lindy West, Rebecca Solnit, and Maggie Nelson, dissects everything from beauty to Obama to pumpkin spice lattes. Yet Thick will also fill a void on those very shelves: a modern black American female voice waxing poetic on self and society, serving up a healthy portion of clever prose and southern aphorisms in a style uniquely her own.

McMillan Cottom has crafted a black woman’s cultural bible, as she mines for meaning in places many of us miss and reveals precisely how—when you’re in the thick of it—the political, the social, and the personal are almost always one and the same.

Thick --
In the name of beauty --
Dying to be competent --
Know your whites --
Black is over (or, special black) --
The price of fabulousness --
Black girlhood, interrupted --
Girl 6 --

244 pages, Hardcover

First published January 8, 2019

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About the author

Tressie McMillan Cottom

11 books1,573 followers
Tressie McMillan Cottom has been called "a master of metaphor" (Soraya McDonald), one of "America's most bracing thinkers on race, gender, and capitalism of our time" (Rebecca Traister) and "one of the finest public intellectuals writing today" (Roxane Gay). McMillan Cottom centers black women in uncommonly incisive analysis of social problems. She lives in Richmond, Virginia where she is an associate professor of sociology.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,037 reviews
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 121 books157k followers
September 17, 2018
Tressie McMillan Cottom’s essay collection Thick: And Other Essays, is thick in every sense of the word. This book is thick with wit and depth and intelligence as McMillan Cottom tackles black womanhood, contextualizing whiteness, beauty in a capitalist society, class mobility and much more. She engages, in fascinating ways, with the forces that bear down upon her from her subject position in prose that effortlessly blends the personal with the theoretical. She articulates a black woman’s work and, more importantly, a black woman’s worth in a society determined to devalue her. To say this collection is transgressive, provocative and brilliant is simply to tell you the truth. Thick: And Other Essays is a necessary work and a reminder that Tressie McMillan Cottom is one of the finest public intellectuals writing today.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,458 reviews8,560 followers
January 28, 2019
Without a doubt the best book I have read in 2019 thus far, Thick: And Other Essays is thick with wit, intelligence, and an assured self-awareness. Tressie McMillan Cottom addresses many topics within the realm of black womanhood, including beauty standards and whiteness, ethnic differences within the black community, socioeconomic class and assimilating into capitalism, and more. I loved how she always took her analysis one step further, like in her essay about beauty, how she refutes the neoliberal idea that we are all beautiful, and she instead asserts that we should question why we value beauty and who profits from determining what we consider beautiful. She applies this insight to an expanse of subjects, including how black women do not get positions at high prestige publications, in which she analyzes David Brooks's Twitter follows to highlight how few people in positions of power listen to black women.

Recommended to everyone and also fans of Roxane Gay, Brittney Cooper, and Rebecca Solnit. McMillan Cottom has a distinct voice, and she integrates her personal life with her societal analysis in powerful ways in this collection. The heartbreaking content she reveals in "Dying to be Competent" literally made me pause and take a breath because of the skill and poignancy in which she intertwines her personal loss with greater stereotypes and discrimination against black women. I look forward to reading more of her work, and I hope you all give this book a read.
July 18, 2019

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This is a really excellent collection of essays written by a black woman on issues that matter for both women and people of color. Better yet, she gives the why behind why she feels that these issues matter, and better still; I liked her whys. Intersectionality is so important, and it was only a few years ago that I realized how many feminist books and books about women's issues omit the issues that plague women of color. Even within marginalized groups, there are degrees of privilege, and that is something that Cottom talks a lot about in here-- at length-- among other stirring and relevant topics.

Cottom is a passionate writer, and a capable one. Her prose flows smoothly, leading you from one concept to the next, and it's like being guided down a river of ideas. She writes the way a lot of my favorite textbook writers wrote in college, and you can really feel the academia. You can also feel the outrage, and the electric power of her words. I liked that, too. Her writing was complex and emotive and clear; a hard balance to manage, but compelling.

Some of the things that she writes about are race, misogyny, sexuality, fetishization, Donald Trump's election, Obama's election, privilege, beauty, impostor syndrome, social echo chambers, equality vs. justice (although she does not refer to it as such), academia, colorism, and culture, and how these apply specifically to people of color, especially to people who identify as black (although anyone can learn from these essays). I picked this up because Roxane Gay reviewed it, and I like Roxane Gay, but after reading this collection, I think I might like Tressie McMillan Cottom more. Mind blown.

I saw a couple of people who clearly felt very uncomfortable after reading this. I think that might be a good thing, though. It's like ripping off a band-aid-- it's always unpleasant to realize that things that come easily for you and that you previously took for granted are a struggle for others; and that by merely taking advantage of and enjoying these things, you are contributing-- maybe unintentionally, maybe subconsciously-- to a system that continues to perpetuate injustice and inequality. Either this book will give you something to relate to and feel empowered by, or it will make you think hard and give you something to learn from. I call that a win-win, personally.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

4 stars
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,397 followers
July 25, 2020
Recently an incoherent commenter accused me of being a "typical Karen" for writing a negative review of Little Fires Everywhere, and although I'll reserve the right not to be called a Karen for disliking a tedious Jodi Picoult knockoff, the fact is that I probably am a Karen in some ways. I'm a white woman in a racist society; how could I not be? We (white people)—no matter how much we educate ourselves, no matter how much activism we engage in—we all have blind spots. And while all types of antiracist books are important, the books I'm most looking for now are the ones that point out my blind spots to me. Thick is one of those books. I'm still processing a lot of it so I won't provide too many specifics here, but as an example, Thick made me see that The Beauty Myth, an important book of third-wave feminism, is, if not actually racist, than at the very least peak white feminism. Now that it's been pointed out to me, this is so obvious it's embarrassing. As a feminist who has always tried to be active in social-justice causes in one way or another, I've been trying to figure out what I can do to be a better ally, and books like Thick are exactly what I need right now. This book delves into a lot of complex issues, but I want to add that it's also funny and a pleasure to read. Recommended!
Profile Image for Maede.
274 reviews395 followers
July 18, 2022
چند ماه پیش بود که فکری مثل خوره به جونم افتاد.
«چرا این کتاب‌ها رو می‌خونی؟»
چرا از چند سال پیش دغدغه خوندن کتاب‌هایی که در مورد مسائل اجتماعی و به‌خصوص زنانه اینجوری به جونت افتاده؟ خوندن این کتاب‌ها درد داره، فکرت رو اسیر می‌کنه و تلخی‌های این دنیا از همیشه بیشتر به چشمت میاد. خوندن این‌ها چه فایده‌ای برای تو داشته؟ آره اینجا و اونجا صدات رو بلند کردی و به خیال خودت از حق دفاع کردی، ولی آیا به خوندنش می‌ارزید؟

در گروهی که از همین گودریدز درست شده بود و هفته‌ای یکبار جمع می‌شد تا از کتاب و زندگی حرف بزنه، بارها و بارها راجع به این کتاب‌ها حرف زدم. گاهی بحث کردم، انقدر با حرارت که صندلیم نگهدارم نبود و خونه متر می‌شد. خداحافظی که می‌کردیم اما، گاهی این ساختمان به ظاهر محکم درونم می‌لرزید. «چه فایده؟»

اون روز صبح که گوشیم با اون مسیج کثیف نجس شد فایده‌ش رو فهمیدم. درست همون لحظه که نفس نمی‌تونستم بکشم و لبه‌ی روشویی رو چسبیده بودم چون زانوهام خالی کرده بود. اون لحظه که آدمی که مدت‌ها به عنوان یک دوست و کتابخوان حسابی شناخته بودمش تبدیل به شکارچی شد. همون آدمی که طرف مقابل همه‌ی اون بحث‌ها بود و ناگهان به طور دردناکی فهمیدم که چرا حرف همدیگر رو نمی‌فهمیدیم

من موندم و هزار اما و اگر و ساعت‌ها مکالمه‌های دردناک برای توضیح دادن چیزی که من انجام نداده بودم. هربار که تلفن رو قطع کردم یکی از جون‌هام کم شد. من موندم و انتخاب بین سکوت و داد زدن. داد زدنی که می‌دونستم باهاش همونقدر که به دست میارم از دست هم میدم. مثل همه‌ی زن‌های این کتاب‌ها که جسورانه می‌نویسند و بارش رو هم به دوش می‌کشند. اما همین کتاب‌ها به دادم رسیدند. صدای قدرتمند این زن‌ها در این سه هفته تمام مدت توی گوشم بود و هربار که افکاری که باهاش بزرگ شده بودم به مغزم خزیدند فقط بلندتر فریاد کشیدند
«تقصیر تو نیست»
«تو اشتباه نکردی»
«تو مسئول اشتباهات و افکار نجس اون نیستی»
«تو حق داری»
«تو بزرگش نکردی»

البته که اگر یک «نَر» وقتی که روی زمین افتاده بودم یک لگد هم بهم زد، دو تا مرد دستام رو گرفتند و بلندم کردم و من این تفاوت رو از همیشه واضح‌تر دیدم. اما حقیقت اینه که اینجا دنیای نَرهاست و بقیه ما فقط فضا اشغال می‌کنیم. اشتباهات اون‌ها لغزش و «مرد بودنه» و اشتباهات ما هرزگی. حقیقت اینه که هر چقدر بخونم و یاد بگیرم که در چنین جهانی چطور باید در این کالبد زنانه زندگی کنم، کمه. حقیقت اینه که وقتی طوفان سر برسه پناهگاه زیر همین کلماته

که حرف زدن راحته، ولی پای عمل که می‌رسه قوی بودن و سکوت نکردن سخته

Profile Image for Monica.
592 reviews621 followers
August 19, 2019
I liked Thick very much and in fact there were essays here that spoke to me, for me, within me. The writing was quite affecting. Cottom is brash and intense and funny and full of facts. That's what was great about the book. Her commentary was searing and endlessly supported by facts. In this book Cottom talks of what it feels like to be an educated black woman in this America and I gotta tell ya, she knocked it out of the park on most of these essays. Breakdown here:

For all of Cottom's brilliance (and she is brilliant!), a couple of her essays fell short. That said, I highlighted half of the book. I like Cottom and I will be seeking her wisdom in whatever she publishes. She is thoughtful, compelling, has piercing insight, and is just plain smart. She's also infinitely quotable and pretty funny. Oh and the woman can write! This book is well worth your attention!!

4.5ish Stars

Read on kindle
Profile Image for Traci Thomas.
543 reviews9,835 followers
October 7, 2020
Holy smart person. Tressie McMillan Cottom is an incredible writer and more importantly thinker. She is connecting dots I’ve not ever seen connected. She is amazing at writing “the turn” in these essays. Also she is narrow in focus in each essay which allows for depth and real interrogation. Also she’s funny, smart funny. That’s important too. I also struggled with reading these essays, the language was so deliberate I had to reread because I would get confused. Not a dig at the author, more an observation that she doesn’t make herself litter for her reader. This is smart work. This is real important writing.

Reread: these essays are better the second time through. They still work and seem to have enough legs go feel relevant even years into the future. Her writing is so good. She is so smart.
Profile Image for chantel nouseforaname.
628 reviews312 followers
January 28, 2019
Yooooooo Tressie! Tressie! Tressie! SIS!!! SISSSSS!

This whole book rocked my entire world and like just got all up in my feelings and my mind and honestly, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. There's so much important stuff here.
I'm going to buy a copy for my sister-in-law; because I think she should read it. My highlights are all up on this post. So many highlighted segments of just straight, pure truths.

Highlights include: Know Your Whites: no matter how much I love The Obamas, and I LOVE THE OBAMAS, I live for scholarly people reading The Obama Administration for their lack of real-world change to everyday practices and policies that see black and brown people in the States systematically discriminated against and held back. I love that TMC goes for the jugular with her comments re "my first black president"...who apparently doesn't know his Whites! Dying to be Competent: I mean, this is my fear around childbirth and fighting for proper medical treatment. Fuck, if I'm honest, Tressie detailed in this segment my current lived experience and rage right now surrounding my treatment from my doctor, whom I just changed last month after being his patient since childhood. Real talks, that motherfucker wasn't listening to my health concerns and I ain't trying to die. WHY are black women dying and not being listened to surrounding our own healthcare? Why is this exacerbated if it's a fat, black, female body? Child, Tressie jumped right the fuck up in there and broke that shit down play by play! I was here for it.

Two more highlights, real talks - the WHOLE BOOK is a highlight; but two more points that caught me up was one in Black Is Over: the term "diversity" really does equal "black" in higher education settings, doesn't it? Biiiish, I be learning, every day and what I'm learning is that things are just as I suspected they are and I'm not crazy. THANK YOU Tressie for pointing out the fact that black women are not crazy and that certain words are euphemisms for other fucking words. SIS. Thank you for recentering my sanity. Black Girl, Interrupted: Thank you for writing this and sharing this. I just you know the whole concept of being fast in high school, the fact that our value, worthiness, safety, as black women are generally discarded by everyone who is not us, and commonly by those who look like us, well, I'm just sad that we live this and my soul burns, but I can never get to the point where I could state how I feel as eloquently as you and Brittney Cooper and Morgan Jerkins have stated and clarified in your works and I thank all those black women and Tressie in this section and Girl 6 for clearly clarifying those emotions for the masses.

Yo, this book was worth the wait. I loved every second of it and I'm certain that I will be reading it again and again and sharing it with many black women and allies as something that can illustrate our realities in this world.
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
789 reviews1,183 followers
November 13, 2019
Gritty, smart, original, Thick is a powerful collection of essays on race and womanhood, especially Black womanhood and the many injustices heaped upon Black women.   Tressie McMillan Cottom shares intimate details of her own life and covers a broad spectrum about her thoughts on racism and white superiority and what is wrong with America today.  It is a collection I both enjoyed and found enlightening.  The voices of Black women are the least heard in America and, as Ms. Cottom illlustrates, there is much wisdom and insight to be gleaned by actually and finally listening to Black women.  Listen and learn and learn to be better. This is a book I think Black women will relate to most and a book white people need to read. 
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,909 reviews4,789 followers
July 2, 2021
Phenomenal and beautifully done. There were definitely stories that I connected with more than others but overall this was one of the most important and impactful essay collections that I've read in a while. I would have a more extensive review; however, it's been a minute since I read it. If you want to check out my full thoughts here is the link to my review on my channel: https://youtu.be/7Dv-Z_u_3bM
Profile Image for Stacie C.
332 reviews63 followers
January 8, 2019

Thick. If that isn’t an apt title for this collection than I don’t know what is, because this is a thick book. Not thick in the amount of pages, but absolutely full of relevant and necessary information. It isn’t curing cancer or solving climate change. But it is giving a voice and analytical eye to the way we treat, judge, measure, love, hate and depict Black women.

I knew after the very first essay in this collection that I was willing to analyze and absorb everything that Cottom had to write. And write she did, absolutely beautifully. As a Black woman I have been making it a point to not only think critically about my own situation and positioning in this disturbing time in our history, but to also think critically about the experiences of other Black women. I see Cottom doing the same thing in this collection, but in a way so composed that I could never imagine myself capable. Each of these essays take a measured look at the relationship that Black women have to different aspects of society, whether it is our relationship to beauty, education, other ethnicities, the evolving concept of being Black, sexual abuse, medical care. These are all issues that need to be discussed because Black women are losing opportunities, losing their lives, and losing our patience because of how we are perceived. In Cottom’s more than capable hands these issues are dissected and her opinions made clear for readers to obtain.

Now while I enjoyed this book, I can tell you right now that some may find it intimidating. They may feel how thick it is and shy away from it or reject it. But for those willing to actually consider what she is saying they’ll be hard pressed to find lies. Everything Cottom discusses holds a substantial amount of weight especially in todays society. I found myself fully engaged in the essays. And as thick as this book is, it is a relatively easy read. None of these essays are too long or abstract. It’s simply the language she uses is descriptive and at times analytical. I would highly recommend this book. I think Cottom is able to put into words the concern that we should all have while existing in this political climate. Even though parts of what she is saying may be painful or hit a sensitive spot for some Black women, it’s all well done and really well reasoned. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you Netgalley for this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,602 reviews2,040 followers
March 19, 2019
I have only one critique of THICK: I would like more of it.

I wanted to read this book as soon as it was announced and could have read an advance copy but once I found out there was an audiobook I waited. I love authors reading their own work and after following Cottom on Twitter for a few years I knew she would deliver. She has.

I do not read many essay collections even though they are having a burst of popularity. Usually when I do they are comedic or a little on the lighter side. It is not that I don't think I'm smart enough to read more serious nonfiction essays, I'm just not convinced they will hold my attention. I know that I struggle with nonfiction, I am pretty open about it. My only question about THICK was how readable it would be, sometimes academics are not the most accessible even when writing for a general audience. I am pleased to announce that this is a collection that covers big issues, feels immediate and important, and speaks to you as if you are a smart friend. These essays trust your intelligence but also trust their own intelligence so that they do not need to dress everything up in jargon. This is straightforward, smart analysis, with the regular shine of Cottom's wit and personality coming through. It is a joy to spend time with her.

The primary topic of these essays are the systems we encounter every day and how they are impacted by race, class, and gender. For many women, particularly black women, little of this will feel like a surprise. But looking beyond just the surface interactions people have with these systems, going past the basic critiques, and not being content to simply present statistics and move on really brings these essays and issues to life. You cannot listen to any of these essays without thinking of your own stories and those of the people you know. There is an urgency to them, even if the topic may seem small. Cottom understands how even small things can carry a great weight when they are burdened by systems that favor whiteness, wealth, and patriarchy.

The balance between the personal and the systemic is a difficult one in this kind of work, but Cottom has it absolutely down. The reader cares about her as a person and her own stories add dimension and weight to her critiques and commentary. It can be easy to nitpick with a personal story, it can be easy to nitpick a broad statement, but the way she puts it all together is so persuasive that you cannot argue with her without making yourself look like a damn fool. I would like to see Cottom as a regular commentator on basically everything. I never realized how much Sociology could bring to current events, but I am now chastened.

It is particularly revelatory to have a book on cultural commentary be written by and centered around black women. It is unusual for a book like this to come from anyone who is not a prominent white male public intellectual. It is unsurprising that for a book like this to exist it has to be put into the world by an independent, nonprofit publisher. It is still a challenge for women to publish work like this without a platform, and yet as Cottom points out those platforms are mostly closed to black women. It is a vicious cycle, but if we buy enough copies of this book I know we can break it. Go do your part.

I listened to this book even though I would usually read something like it in print. And I may go back and get a print copy. I wanted to underline things. I found myself going to the 30-second-back button often to hear something over again. But this doesn't make the audio inaccessible or too much, I liked the ability to go back and re-listen. The only downside of the audio is that you will enjoy it so much that you may be tempted to buy a second copy in print.
Profile Image for Nathan Shuherk.
255 reviews1,980 followers
December 26, 2022
Once you get about 30 words into, you know it’s gonna be 5 stars. Is that a good enough review? Read it. Read it now.
Profile Image for Valerity (Val).
955 reviews2,741 followers
January 4, 2019
DNF at 26% I tried repeatedly to get into this book, but its just not my usual kind of book, although a good one, not for me. I have a sleep disorder that knocks me right out if I don't find something gripping, and even on some that I do, so I have to save my reading time for books that I find compelling. Thanks for understanding!
Profile Image for Meike.
1,511 reviews2,445 followers
October 9, 2019
Now a Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction 2019
This was dense and super interesting: Tressie McMillan Cottom, a professor of sociology and public intellectual, writes about the black female experience in postmodern America, and she offers a sharp analysis of various complex phenomena that affect her and many other black women. In eight essays, she tackles topics such as the capitalist logic of beauty, the election of Trump, the vulnerability of black girls and women, the concept of whiteness, and classism. By doing so, she describes a whole web of ideas and systemic barriers designed to hold black women back and to take away their agency when it comes to determining who they are and what they know about the world and even themselves.

Full disclosure: I hadn't heard of Tressie McMillan Cottom before the NBA longlist was announced (to my defense: I'm not American), and I'm glad that the judges pointed her work out to me. Highly recommended. And here's the author talking about "Thick" with the equally wonderful Trevor Noah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYNu6...
Profile Image for Anna.
758 reviews510 followers
January 21, 2019
My primary interest in requesting and reading this book was that I felt it might improve my understanding of the black female experience in the U.S., as I am always on the look for the type of works that combine personal narrative and scholarly insight, where the writer will always try to “to refine my analytical concepts without sacrificing my prose.” Not because the data and research added would reinforce and legitimize the personal story, but because it brings into the light a new, different way of using this overly conceptualized vocabulary.
“With the privilege to read and to think comes great responsibility. When you have that privilege precisely because so many others like you - black women - are systematically filtered out of every level of professional status, then the responsibility is especially great.”

Tressie McMillan Cottom’s prose is indeed incisive, humorous, and provocative.

The essays I found most thought-provoking in this collection were:
⇝ “In the Name of Beauty,” where she challenges the unachievable beauty standards, which, by enforcing “the preferences that reproduce the existing social order,” completely exclude nonwhite women.
“They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that ugly is as ugly does. Both are lies. Ugly is everything done to you in the name of beauty. Knowing the difference is part of getting free.”

⇝ “Black Is Over (Or, Special Black),” where she discusses tensions between African-Americans and black people from other countries:
“These are funny stories about identity and relationships. There is a bit of condescension in assuming that I must be something other than black American if I am also intelligent and high-achieving. But I rarely take these as insults. People like to project the best of themselves onto others.”

The essays I found most heartbreaking, if not shocking, were:
⇝ “Dying to Be Competent,” in which the author takes the tragic story of the death of her premature baby due to racially charged medical negligence to discuss “the image of black women as physically strong without any emotions vulnerable enough to warrant consideration” as “one of the greatest cultural exports from the racist, sexist U.S. hierarchy.”
⇝ “Black Girlhood, Interrupted,” which was more than shocking, because it brings fort sexual violence against black girls and women by highlighting that:
“We are most vulnerable to the men in our homes. We are taught to blame ourselves. But black women and girls face additional burdens of protecting the reputations of black boys and men. As black feminists have argued, that burden has trapped us in cultural silences that a focus on gender violence alone cannot capture.”

I was a bit disappointed by “Girl,” the final essay in this collection, because, even though I know what the author was trying to do – and you only have to look at articles and books like Joanna Russ’s to see how women’s writing has been suppressed and belittled by white men over the centuries, with black women writers being ignored altogether – she somehow stooped to their level. The whole “David Brooks only follows ballers” on Twitter and #TeamFollowBack thing left a bitter taste, because putting others down won’t make you rise any higher, even if it’s some white dude writing about his ridiculous sandwiches! It didn’t feel like the right tone to end the collection. I was taught to always be the bigger person, but I might be wrong.
“The reality is that for writers, there are few gigs as good as those at publications where they have the freedom and protection to write well. Writing well takes research assistance, editorial expertise, copywriters, lunch breaks, fresh air, desk space, peers, and LexisNexis subscriptions. Writing is democratic. Writing well is not.”

THICK: And Other Essays appeared on quite a few “most anticipated releases of 2019” lists and it will certainly be on some “best nonfiction lists” by the end of the year, and rightfully so!

*Thanks to NetGalley & The New Press for the opportunity to read a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thick: And Other Essays RELEASED JAN 8, 2019.*
Profile Image for Robert Sheard.
Author 4 books300 followers
October 7, 2020
Nope. When you open a collection with the claim that you're writing classical arguments with the goal of persuading people, and then immediately dismiss any potential reader who doesn't think exactly the way you do, you're not persuading; you're giving a sermon. I don't have any illusions that I'm the smartest one in the room, but I did teach rhetoric and argumentation for more than two decades, and coached a crew of national champion debaters, so I'm pretty good at spotting logical flaws in arguments. This is a book full of straw men. She claims early on that white people, and even black men, won't agree with her and she doesn't care. They don't matter. She only listens, she says, when black women criticize her, as they did after her take on Miley Cyrus's performance at The Grammy's some years ago. But then she dismisses those critics as tools of capitalism. So literally, no one counts in her "persuasion" except people who already see things her way. How convenient. And that's just the first essay!

She closes the collection with a rant (her word, not mine) that came out of Twitter that no prestige publications had a black woman as a full-time op-ed writer. Much of the piece is an attack on David Brooks of the NY Times, because he wrote a piece using deli meat as a metaphor for whatever point he was making. I don't know; I haven't read his column. Her argument is that if someone as worthless as Brooks can have such a position, why can't a black woman? Fair enough, but trashing Brooks seemed silly and childish. Then in one sentence she reduced Thomas Friedman to someone "who writes about his taxi driver." Really? REALLY? It's impossible to take someone seriously who can make that claim with a straight face.

Oh yeah, at the end, guess what? At the end of her final piece, she casually throws in the fact that the same NY Times actually did hire a black woman op-ed writer in 2018. Are you surprised that she managed to discount that hiring, too? You shouldn't be. These are rants, not essays. And they don't further discourse on the very real systemic elements of racism throughout our country. We have tons of problems that need real solutions. No one outside of her core group of like-minded people is going to be persuaded by this kind of "argumentation."
Profile Image for Hannah.
591 reviews1,051 followers
January 26, 2019
Thick is a non-fiction book that straddles the line between academic writing and memoir - something I personally really happen to enjoy. Here McMillan Cottom writes on a variety of topics, often with anecdotal evidence centered into her more academic musings.

This book both suffers and improves for me because McMillan Cottom comes from a similar academic tradition as I do. On the one hand it means that I am bound to agree with a lot of her analyses, on the other hand some of her arguments do lose persuasiveness because I have seen them done better elsewhere. I especially thought her use of Bourdieu did not always take into account all of his nuances (which I only know of because I am using his works for my own thesis).

I thought this was a well-written collection of essays that manages to make sociology accessible to a variety of readers and for that I was always going to love it. It did not reinvent the wheel but it makes for an interesting discussion starter.

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and The New Press in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Melki.
5,789 reviews2,340 followers
February 17, 2022
Cottom presents a collection of shrewd essays on the black experience in America.

Much has already been written about this book, and I have little to add other than to state that what happened to Cottom during her pregnancy, and subsequent birth is not only horrific and unforgivable, it represents everything that is wrong with the medical establishment and society as a whole

I most enjoyed the last essay, Girl 6, where Cottom bemoans the fact that David Brooks can write about a subject as insignificant as fancy sandwiches, and have it published in The New York Times.

Her fond wish?

. . . a black woman somewhere in this world to have the freedom to be banal as a matter of course for her job. I wanted her to be well compensated, protected and free to fail.

When I Googled Cottom, I see she is now writing op-eds for the Gray Lady.

She got it! She's free to fail . . . but I really doubt she'll ever do that.

Read this when you're ready to learn something.
Profile Image for Veronica Moss.
116 reviews25.4k followers
November 24, 2020
I really enjoyed this book of essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom, which gave me a glimpse into the life of Black women and opened up a bunch of engaging conversations with colleagues and friends. Cottom’s essays are accessible, thought-provoking, and full of feminist power. Her writing is witty, often humorous and direct. The essays tackle diverse topics such as beauty, racism, family, politics, culture, status and stereotypes. Recommended read.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,464 reviews560 followers
July 27, 2019
Listening to these riveting essays narrated by the author was an enjoyable treat even though she had me thinking hard. Cottom opened the door and invited me to do some thought shifting about the injustices in our world - especially the injustices against black women. I needed this book and am ready for her next one...
Profile Image for Tiyahna Ridley-Padmore.
Author 1 book49 followers
December 19, 2020
In Thick: And Other Essays Tressie McMillan Cottom offers powerful social critique about Black exceptionalism through well-researched and well-argued personal essays that reflect on her experience as a Black, thick, Southern intellectual. As a Black woman who recognizes the privilege of her intellect and education, Cottom brings a unique lens to her reflections on beauty, representation, work ethic, academia and girlhood.

When I read the title of this book, Thick , I thought it was going to be about the politics of Black women's bodies. Instead, Cottom boldly expands the definition of the word to apply to how she, her body, her skin and her mind are seen to over-occupy space.

“Thick where I should have been thin, more when I should have been less [...] I had tried in different ways over the years to fit. I thought I could discipline my body and later my manners to take up less room. I was fine with that, but I learned that even I had limits when—in my pursuit of the life of the mind—my thinking was deemed too thick (Cottom, 2019, p.11).”

I was audibly reacting in agreement and getting my life as I read this section.

Who am I kidding, I was audibly reacting throughout the entire book. Cottom's reflections are thoughtful, poignant and put words to social phenomena that I have felt but have not been able to articulate. She talks about the heterogeneity among a Black community that is often only afforded one, universal voice (or six Twitter accounts*). She talks about the relationship that Black women, even those who appear to be successful and thriving, have with labour - one that demands everything and offers little in return.

Although my experiences are certainly different from hers in a number of ways, as a Black academic, I felt represented in Cottom's writing in a way that no other personal essay collection has offered me. I loved Thick .

*You have to read the book to understand this reference
Profile Image for BookOfCinz.
1,404 reviews2,360 followers
April 22, 2020
What can I possibly add to this conversation of how important this book? Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom's Thick: And Other Essays should be required reading for everyone. This is such important work that dives into life for Black people, especially black womanhood. After finishing each essay I thought "Tressie GETS. IT." This collection is nuanced, poignant and gripping. Each essay is THICK, DEEP and RAW- they deserve to be chewed on, not gobbled up.

While I loved every single essay, I particularly cannot shake:
Know Your Whites
The Price of Fabulousness
In The Name of Beauty
Black Girlhood, Interrupted

I know, I know I probably listed out the table of content but... these essays really shook me to the core because of how Tressie is able to aptly verbalize in a clear way some things that only happens to black women.

I cannot recommend this book enough. PLEASE READ THIS!

I particularly love this quote from Know Your Whites because.... truer words have never been written,

To know our whites is to understand the psychology of white people and the elasticity of whiteness. It is to be intimate with some white persons but to critically withhold faith in white people categorically. It is to anticipate white people’s emotions and fears and grievances, because their issues are singularly our problem. To know our whites is to survive without letting bitterness rot your soul.
Profile Image for TheBookWarren.
413 reviews99 followers
May 25, 2020
4.75 Stars - Written with unexpected poetry for such an academic, visceral & clearly well cogitated piece of writing. Reminded me wry much for some reason of last years Axiomatic, one of my favourite reads of all time!

These essays are not for the faint of heart, the emotive narrative & deliberately confronting stylings and raw content force you to face issues of race & subliminal marginalisation in your own reflection, something I’m grateful for and that grabbed me & pulled me around by the scruff of my neck, numerous times. The writing is humorous, bleak & ultimately gratifying for the reader, whether it’s anecdotal evidence to showcase class/race/sex divide that still very much exists in today’s everyday.

A brilliant compilation that reads with timeless poise & brutal commentary that holds no martyrdom or prevention, just unadulterated confronting concepts & powerful comment on the world as it is.
Profile Image for Mimi.
97 reviews3,792 followers
December 17, 2020
Along the way, I have shared parts of myself, my history, and my identity to make social theory concrete. The things we touch and smell and see and experience through our senses are how stories become powerful. But I have never wanted to only tell powerfully evocative stories. I have wanted to tell evocative stories that become a problem for power.

Cottom calls herself a public intellectual and perhaps that's why every single essay in this book felt like an alternate universe where I had to learn a new language. At the same time it is strikingly relatable. Please read it and let's trade stories.

P.S. I want Tressie McMillan Cottom to be the black woman to have a job (her only job!) as an opinion writer at a prestige publication, sharing her mundane and profound thoughts.
Profile Image for mwana .
369 reviews207 followers
July 2, 2020
I have racked what little there is of my brain to come up with a worthy review for this collection of essays but I honestly can't come up with anything to do it justice. Roxane Gay's review captures everything that needs to be known about this work. Read it if you haven't please.
Profile Image for Gina.
632 reviews8 followers
July 6, 2019
2.75+ stars
Thick, indeed.

I ended up skimming one essay and skipping another. There is something about the style or density of McMillan Cottom's writing that was impenetrable.

These are the types of essays that make my eyes glaze over because I am too frivolous to sit still and pay attention long enough to read and digest. Thick is a blend of social commentary and academic writing, and I struggled to make sense of what I was reading. For instance:
"Like whiteness itself, Obama was because Trump is."

I need to admit to myself that I cannot make myself enjoy a book simply because it is the sort of powerful and political book that I should read.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,329 reviews118 followers
June 27, 2019
Cottom’s essays provide a thoughtful perspective on the pervasive racism and misogyny that black women must deal with. For instance, how does a black woman ‘prove’ that she has bruises left by an abuser, when her skin is so dark that it doesn’t show bruises. And yet, our criminal justice system relies on such photographic evidence!

Where are the voices of black women on the opinion pages of major newspapers? Why don’t black women journalists have more followers on social media? Cottom writes eloquently on these and other issues faced by black women. Recommend.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
April 23, 2019
One of the best essay collections I've read in a LONG time. I absolutely loved it. I loved, especially, her essay on beauty standards as a function of the market. Each essay was just so carefully written, dense, complex, and well-thought out, but also very personal and vulnerable.
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