Thick

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

Interesting and thought provoking essays. I have not read a lot of essays on black women and it’s really eye opening. Great writing!
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This is such a great essay collection to start off the new year. I'm a longtime fan of Tressie McMillan Cottom's work, particularly on higher education, and this collection does not disappoint. There is a very timely essay in here about R. Kelly, uncannily timed for the release of the three-day documentary about R. Kelly's survivors on Lifetime TV. Her remarks about the violence perpetrated on Black women outside of and within their community, how Black women ultimately must all be survivors, were heartbreaking and necessary. I appreciate her candor about distrust for white women and people as a whole and her refusal to codeswitch throughout her writing. It's an honest, unflinching collection that I will be recommending frequently.
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This is a brilliant collection of essays! It it thoughtful and thought-provoking and so necessary. This is an important and diverse book. I thoroughly enjoyed and am excited to see more collections like this,
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This collection of essays is quite simply unadulterated brilliant. Capturing the depth and pain of her experiences with honesty and an incredible amount of wit. This book is absolutely incredible.
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Review posted on Goodreads:
I received a free e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review- all opinions are my own. The first thing I can say about this is that partway through reading I went online and purchased a hard copy of this book for my shelf. This is a collection of essays that start from Tressie McMillan Cottom’s specific experiences as a black female individual navigating the systemic and impossible constraints put on black women in our country, and also zooms way out to talk about these socio-political issues at large. I found the essays to be accesible and also that they brought new complexities to issues I hadn’t considered. So glad I read this book.
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I really love the content of this personal essay collection, and would definitely recommend it as a book to check for those who love ELOQUENT RAGE by Brittney Cooper or THIS WILL BE MY UNDOING by Morgan Jenkins. That said, something about the authorial voice didn't quite turn all the way over for me. I'm not sure if it was my mood or just my tastes generally, as the writing is objectively quite nice. I just didn't fully connect with it the way I have with writers like Cooper or Roxane Gay. 

TLDR - I think this is totally worth picking up if it sounds interesting to you. Well written & thoughtful, but the flow/authorial voice didn't connect completely for me
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I love The New Press. I have discovered so many amazing writers through them that I would most likely not have heard of otherwise. Nowadays I frequently check their upcoming releases, which is how I found out about Tressie McMillan Cottom. Thick is my introduction into Tressie McMillan Cottom’s work, and it’s an absolute must read. I feel embarrassed that I haven’t read her work before because it is brilliant, honest, and so full of truths.

Thick is a collection of essays covering topics such as education, entertainment, beauty standards, and healthcare amongst others, written from the standpoint of a black American woman, scholar, sociologist, feminist, and award-winning professor. Tressie McMillan Cottom uses fact, experience, personal thought, and an overall look of our society in general to provide thought-provoking, deep, intense, and very, very important view of topics that we cannot shy away from. I love how she writes: direct, accessible, but also full of well-researched facts and information that drive her points and intent home. And there is a lot of humor in these essays too, you will laugh out loud, but you will also shed a tear. 

Tressie McMillan Cottom is also fearless in her writing, and doesn’t hesitate to go deep, and really force you to think about your own role in perpetuating prejudices and white supremacy. So much of this book resonated very strongly with me, I found myself nodding my head and saying “THIS” so many times through-out. So much of the content also made me realize how much I do not know, and would not know about if I didn’t actively seek out information on. Tressie McMillan Cottom brings up many challenging topics that are important to digest and talk about. And very, very hard to talk about too. Sexual assault, rape, and abuse, beauty standards created in the image of the white woman and perpetuated by us all, infant mortality, and continuous assumption that black women will always do all the work while others reap the benefits. 

This review will never be able to do Thick the justice it deserves. All I can say is read it please. If you only read one collection of essays this year, read this one. Especially now.

Thanks to The New Press and Netgalley for the ARC!
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So, how do I describe this book, to have you you all get it and read it? Probably it's not enough if I say this might be the book that I'll look back on in the end of 2019, and that it will have had the biggest impact on me. Maybe if I tell you that I rarely (virtually) underline sentences in books, and here I kept highlighting things.

'Thick - and other essays' consists of 8 essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom. I needed time between reading them because they were intense. Not all the same kind of intense, but reading about racism and sexism and how they all intersect, and how black women in particular are systematically pushed out of the public space of the world, is just a harsh reality to read about. 

The essays "In the Name of Beauty" and "Black Girlhood, Interrupted" hit home the most. The first because of how she writes about a experience she had after writing a piece in which she calls herself ugly, that created a massive backlash, mostly from within the community of black women. She then analysis why she wrote what she wrote, using an framework of embedding beauty in capitalism, and intersecting this with race in how beauty is always white, and heteronormativity, and also touching upon the influence of social media. Woah! The other essay hit me, because reading on sexual assault (a definite content warning for that one) is always hard for me. It also shows how pervasive rape culture is, seemingly especially so within black communities. And how common it is for women to experience sexual assault in some way, shape or form. This is something I knew before reading this, but it brought this point home, again.  

The book also challenged me. As a European white human, well versed in feminism, but less well versed in issues of race, I felt I lacked context sometimes. I don't know exactly if that's mostly because I'm white, or because I'm European. I guess it's a combination. I guess that many people reading this, are also white and European. Don't let this stop you, but let it encourage you to read it. Did I tell you already I love this book and that you should definitely read it?
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Being too much of one thing and not enough of another had been a recurring theme in my life ... Thick where I should have been thin, more when I should have been less, a high school teacher nicknamed me "Ms. Personality," and it did not feel like a superlative.

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 pursuit of the life of the mind--my thinking was deemed too thick.

Tressie McMillan Cottom, a professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, writes on race, gender, feminism, and economics, among other topics, in a powerfully intelligent and compellingly readable collection. Thick has the Roxane Gay stamp of approval and it's easy to see why. It's poignant and sharp, sad and scary and deeply thoughtful, sitting with you long after reading.

Cottom's style blends the academic with the accessible and filters it through a personal lens that not only vividly illustrates the points made, and speaks to the greater culture, but makes the stories so affecting. Cottom infuses everything with her wit, a welcome gift when the topics are heavy, and yes, thick.

In the title essay, Cottom refers to a publisher criticizing her work's readability (meaning: not academic enough), among other things. It is incredibly readable, every point she makes so well framed and contextualized it hits like a sledgehammer, but it's also artfully intelligent and carefully packed with research and chilling statistics. Even in her casual research (like on Twitter) she employs methodology to make academia proud. She is nothing if not meticulous in her work, and it carries into the way she puts her thoughts on the page, combining academic theory with striking personal experience.

On one of my first forays into publishing anything, an editor told me that I was too readable to be academic, too deep to be popular, too country black to be literary, and too naive to show the rigor of my thinking in the complexity of my prose. I had wanted to create something meaningful that sounded not only like me, but like all of me. It was too thick.

Cottom covers issues from how black women are judged incompetent in their own health care needs to the links between white voters and Obama/Trump; the complicated,  abstruse economics of being poor and working towards mobility; ideas around beauty, higher education, sexual morality and hypocrisy, and the perception of blackness in culture and society.

These essays made me angry, heartbroken, and ashamed. It's impossible to read them and not experience a range of strong emotions. Cottom writes provocatively but on topics that need provocation in order to draw the attention, criticism and change that they so merit.

One essay, "Black Girlhood, Interrupted" is about what makes a girl or a woman a "ho", told through Cottom's recollection of a family member accusing an assaulted woman of being one because she went to his hotel room. Cottom focuses with laser-precision on what's so problematic and troubling about the way men talk about women: the line they perceive crossed from the mother/daughter/sister/wife role they identify with to the "ho" where all respect is lost thanks to her own actions, nobody else's.

Watching men I love turn a girl into a woman and a woman into a ho has never left me. That conversation ... left a cut that will never heal. It's the kind of wound that keeps you alert to every potential doorway through which you might enter as a friend, sister, or woman, but leave as a bitch or a ho.

Perhaps the most horrifying piece here is one where she lays out the concept of black women's experience in healthcare. She describes her symptoms of a serious problem being ignored or diminished during her pregnancy, and sets this heartbreaking personal experience in the context of a larger, systemic problem. The statistics she uses are terrifying: "The CDC says that black women are 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes than are white women." 

She includes the story of superstar Serena Williams having to advocate strongly for herself for postnatal care, "and what does that say about how poorer, average black women are treated when they give birth?" Cottom's own story is harrowing, no other word for it, and it deserves to be read in her own words.

... Nothing about who I was in any other context mattered to the assumptions of my incompetence. I was highly educated. I spoke in the way one might expect of someone with a lot of formal education. I had health insurance. I was married. All of my status characteristics screamed "competent," but nothing could shut down what my blackness screams when I walk into the room. I could use my status to serve others, but not myself.

When she writes of the political using her sociological perspective, it's sublime. Not only because of her wit, although that's a highlight: "The narrative went: no nation that had progressed enough to elect Obama could turn around and elect the pleathery, oft orange-tinged reality TV show host who sometimes played a billionaire on shock radio. I talked to sensible people, smart people, deeply knowledgeable people. I talked to working-class people and middle-class people and whatever the people are who go to boarding school."

But because of the way she distills what she saw in the anecdotal. "I was not there to see Donald Trump. He was a known quantity. I was there to see the people who believed in Donald Trump as the leader of the free world." In the end, the only ones she talked to who predicted Trump's win were Ms. Yvette, who cleaned university offices, and "Guy I Talk to Behind the Building on His Smoke Break". She jokes heartily, but in the service of underscoring something more profound.

Elsewhere, she takes a serious, almost stoic tone, as in the piece describing black women in childbirth, that belies the emotional content of the story she's telling and the systemic flaws it's highlighting. Yet it's such an effective choice - she strips away emotion and lays bare how this thing is, in all its cringing, outrageous horror.

Her writing is powerfully affecting and intensely well crafted. At times I found myself re-reading sentences multiple times trying to absorb her ideas and appreciate her writing style more fully, because it's the kind of style that deserves deeper appreciation. Cottom's arguments are thoughtful and insightful, and bound to linger as much as they unsettle.

Witty, bitingly analyzed and brilliantly smart.
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I got an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review.

I was excited to read this book because I'm a big fan of Dr. Cottom's Twitter presence and writing in other venues, as well as her previous book [book:Lower Ed: How For-Profit Colleges Deepen Inequality in America|25159221].  That said, I was a little let down by this collection.  When the eight essays in this collection snap into focus, it's incredible, and her perspective as a black woman is right on.  Too often, though, it felt like an essay was covering two topics with some less-than-great segueing between those two topics when I would have preferred two consecutive essays, each focusing on one of the topics and conversing with the other.  

This aside, the way Dr. Cottom backs up her discourse on the topics of race, beauty, money, and other topics with solid references and research is great, and really gives her arguments meaning and depth.
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This book is excellent. As an educator, this collection of essays deepens my understanding of the world my Black female students live in. You cannot read this text without coming out changed after you turn the last page.
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I'm a graduate student at the university where the author teaches and I'm forever sad over the fact that I couldn't squeeze in a class with her. This book is a treasure. It's written in an amazing voice that captures the depth and pain of her experience with honesty and an incredible amount of wit. It's smart and thought-provoking without being stuffy, which makes it a perfect read and easy recommendation.
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I'm really enjoying my exploration of this brilliant Black mind. Cottom's experiences as a Black woman in academia, as well as her quiet wit, have me enthralled and her hospital experience broke my heart and left me enraged. I'm aware of these awful truths already, but Cottom does not hold back. Her rage is righteous and needs to be heard.

I am not a Black woman. I am a white woman and student of sociology headed for higher education teaching. I'm learning, and I care, and this may get me some backlash, I believe more white feminists, especially those earnestly exploring their discomfort in the face of Black feminism, need to read this book, too. 

I'm reading a galley graciously provided by Netgalley (thank you) in exchange for an honest review. The galley contains quite a few grammatical errors that I assume will be remedied by publication.
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Fantastic set of essays by the inestimable Tressie McMillan Cottom! I was most moved by the essay "Dying to be Competent" - angered and saddened for Tressie and all black women who experience the failure of our health care system in the face of real medical emergencies.
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This book really wasn't for me. I tried to get into the way of writing but I found it quite aggressive and confrontational from the start and because of this quickly lost interest. 

Thank you for the publisher for this opportunity.
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I loved this book of essays, and it has inspired me to read Lower Ed, as well as basically everything else Tressie McMillan Cottom has written. Absolutely everyone should read Thick - it is smart, funny, and heartbreaking. I'll be on the lookout for all her future books.
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This collection of essays by Cottom are a combination of her life experiences together with social commentary on race, feminism and today’s culture. 
Having never read her work, I was interested by her use of the personal essay combined with academic research...and humour! An entertaining and insightful read.
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Just when I think I have made real progress in my understanding of racism, a book like "Thick" comes along to tell me to think again, and get back to work. I was left feeling both enlightened by the section about beauty and body image---what it is, isn't, and may never be for many--- and sickened by what I call the "She's almost ready" section, which describes the (male) evaluation of young girls as to how soon they'll be ripe for use and abuse, sexual and otherwise.

My paraphrasing does Ms. Cottom's work little justice. Suffice it to say, the reader will most likely be exposed to viewpoints not previously considered. What I most appreciated was the avoidance of making the reader feel attacked. For example, I once joined the Facebook group "Woke Folks" in order to learn more about racism and the general social experiences of others. I left the group after within three hours, after witnessing finger-pointing, name-calling and insults, some of which were thrown my way for complimenting an African-American author, but "not in the correct way." Well, lesson learned, but it sure didn't foster healthy discourse.. And so I compliment Ms. Cottom's willingness to discuss and educate without placing blame. I'm not saying blame isn't well-deserved, but books such as "Thick" get us thinking and discussing, not running to protect ourselves after asking questions.
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A thought provoking powerful and impactful collection of writing by an author whose work I was unfamiliar with, but one I will be seeking out in future. While the topics discussed are certainly diverse, ranging from beauty and what it means, to the election of Obama, the writing is always rich and challenging both in content and style. 
I read and reviewed an advance copy courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
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Truly outstanding collection of essays. A broad range of subjects was covered, giving the reader an introspective look into the author's world. This is a really important read.
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