Thick

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

This essay collection will be one of the first stand outs in 2019. Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom tackles issues such as op-ed writers and their pieces of work, the view of African American women as incompetent and how it leads to poor healthcare, and understanding African American beauty as it fits into America's white standards. This essay collection blew me away and I truly enjoyed reading it. Every essay taught me something new and I would absolutely recommend picking it up.
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This collection of essays by Sociology Professor Tressie McMillan Cottom discuss her experiences as a black American woman with the rawness and vunerability of her first person stories strongly backed by her academic and intellectual training.  Rather than broad-sweeping topics, Cottom focuses in on very specific experiences and extrapolates how the nuances of her experiences has wide-ranging implications.  In “Dying to be Competent” Cottom describes the terrifying story of her child’s premature birth and the repeated dismissal of her clear and competent requests for help, which was denied by the medical establishment.  Despite her education, privledge and wealth, she was, like black women in many situations, presumed incompetent, on every matter.  This essay travels ground covered by other black American writers in many formats, but the gut-punch that Cottom provides makes it an essay that should be very widely read. 
“Black Is Over (Or, Special Black)” introduced me to a phenomenon I was unaware:  the preference in academia for “special blacks”, specifically international students (particularly those born and raised in the Caribbean and the African continent) over black students born and raised in the US.  An eye-opening essay that demonstrates yet another way that black people are put in hierarchies among themselves.  I feel confident in saying that the collection would be a privilege check  to anyone,  and in several instances, Cottom acknowledges her own.  Carefully honed, brilliantly expressed and accessibly written, I highly recommend this collection.
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review from the publisher, via NetGalley. All views are my own.

I have a thing for memoirs and essay collections written by black women. And while this was metaphorically one of the thickest (or most dense) memoirs I've read, I adored it. A lot of things went over my head or didn't have as much of an impact because 1) I'm not a black woman, so I have never experienced what Cottom writes about; 2) Her voice, to me, was sometimes complicated. 

But nonetheless, there were chapters I particularly liked. The first chapter was a killer, and the last two tied the whole book really nicely. I felt that there was a good pacing of these chapters, which made me keep on reading.

A lot of the points Cottom brings up, I don't agree with completely. Scared that I'll be dragged here on NetGalley, I thought some of the connections Cottom made were far-fetched. They just didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. That could also be because I'm not a) American, b) black, c) rural, d) marginalized. 

All in all, this was a very good read. It was definitely good food for thought and served to show me just how much I like reading black-penned memoirs/essays.
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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.
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These essays have given me a lot to think about and I very much appreciated the author's perspective. I enjoyed the fact she elaborates on some of her previous publications. My mind is reeling and I think it is important as a white woman to read the perspective of a black woman. The chapter where she talks about how many black women die in childbirth versus white woman really hit home for me. I'll be thinking about these essays for awhile.
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A collection merging Cottom’s “thick description” with the politics of blackness. She didn’t conceive of these as personal essays, even though “the personal essay had become the way that black women writers claim legitimacy in a public discourse that defines itself, in part, by how well it excludes black women.” She discusses the negative reactions she got from black women when she described herself as unattractive; she resists the idea that she could be “beautiful” under racism and capitalism, because the aspiration would make her into a market subject and she wants to name what’s been done to her. The hardest essay to read is about the death of her newborn, which was preceded by pain and bleeding and healthcare professionals assuming she was incompetent and later berating her for not telling them something was wrong earlier (she did, but they didn’t understand her symptoms as important)—I’ve experienced a fraction of this treatment as a white woman, but for black women it routinely kills their babies. 

Cottom also writes about universities’ expectations that black “ethnic” students (immigrants or children of immigrants) will do better than U.S. black students, and points out that we are “generally cherrypicking the winners of extreme social stratification in other countries through our admissions processes.” The most bitterly hilarious part is the essay on why she wants banal black women writers at elite outlets, “since David Brooks wrote 865 words about how gourmet sandwiches are ruining America in the New York effing Times.That was 593 words more than the Gettysburg Address and about 365 words more than we allow poor students to write about their neediness on many scholarship applications.” Otherwise, the great black women intellectuals she knows will continue doing second-, third-, and fourth-shift work to get published in the same places, instead of benefits and a salary—the bind is that you get exposure but only by contributing to writers’ economic precarity, but that bind is unequally distributed.
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This took me longer than I expected to complete, but it was still a decent read. It gives a voice to an often looked down upon set of people.
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This collection of essays is quite simply unadulterated brilliance, but I have come to expect no less from Tressie McMillan Cottom! While reading these, I managed to both laugh and cry as this Black woman academic delved into experiences that bore similarities to my own as a woman of colour in Canada. I look forward to more of her work.
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Exceptionally written - poignant, cynical yet painfully sincere. Definitely a collection of essays that I will keep re-reading.
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I featured this book in Book Riot’s Best Books We Read in October feature: https://bookriot.com/2018/11/01/best-books-we-read-in-october-2018/
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An important book for the upcoming year, and I'm grateful to have early access to Tressie McMillan Cottom's writing here. The book is insightful (especially for a young, white woman privileged in several respects like myself) but communicated with accessible language that may appeal to audiences beyond just those who can boast a college - or hell, any - educational degree. 
Conveying the biting, yet necessary, linkage between the "political, social, and the personal" with wit and raw honesty is one of this year, this lifetime's (and too many before that) most worthy causes, and McMillan Cottom certainly does justice with Thick's contribution to that understanding. 
Highly recommended.
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I have lent my copy of Dr. McMillan Cottom's Lower Ed to several other folks in academia, and I regularly read her Twitter. I find her voice to be engaging and I always learn from her public scholarship. Thick was a hard read in that it is a frank look at, among other things, class and race in America. Dr. McMillan Cottom's takes are always nuanced, and I am thrilled that she had a book-length chance to get into some of her (undoubtedly many) deep discussions about vital and fraught areas of life--particularly life as a Black woman in America in and around 2018. Preordered a copy already!
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I've picked up this essay collection after reading a great review about it from Roxane Gay, who I follow on Goodreads.
As always, I'm glad I picked this one up.
It's heart wrenching to read those essays. I'm not black, but I'm a woman and an immigrant and I have friends who went through similar or the same experiences as described.
A must read and great educational piece of writing.

Thank you Netgalley for providing me with an ARC.
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I've been following Cottom's work for over two years now, largely through twitter but also having read and enjoyed Lower Ed. I knew going in that the writing would be both passionate and reasoned and Thick did not disappoint. Cottom has become such a powerful voice in our time, and reading her words of validation and strength should be required for all.
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Thick is a powerfully written book from the perspective of an academic, living and working in the real world.  The book has a sense of honesty and a believable, conversational voice.

Working somewhat like autoethnography, narrative, and memoir once, I recommend Thick as a personal and rich read.
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Now, this book right here is the book I see myself reading when I am old and grey and still going “you’ve got that right!” It is in essay form, but does not shy away from a stark memoir. Honestly speaking, it is what it is, and that’s unapologetic, true, bold, harsh, nostalgic-and just like the title, it is thick! I would review this book everyday if it were up to me, because it is not the kind that you read and turn the page.

It is profound in calling out the stereotypes we subscribe to, our perceptions, our socio-economic status and as a young black woman, what’s written herein is something I have experienced yet I am miles away in another continent.

It goes beyond the value society places on a black woman, and dissects the lies we tell ourselves in our desire to conform to something that devalues us.

I love this book and I look forward to having a hardcover copy for my library because I want to read this years on, to stir up conversations with young women like me here. 
Thank you Netgalley for the eARC.
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I had the pleasure of reading an upcoming memoir/collection of essays by Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, whose previous work Lower Ed is a great treatise on the state of for profit colleges and how students navigate the various entries into education. The opportunity to read Thick was provided by NetGalley. If you haven’t had a chance to follow Dr. McMillan Cottom on Twitter, I would advise you to do so otherwise, you can find her work in a wide variety of public spaces.

In Thick, Dr. McMillan Cottom guides the reader through the thick lived experience that will resonate with many readers. Her voice is indeed thick like a nice glass of sweet tea that your aunt or grandmother would make with just enough sugar to make you feel like you could definitely have a second glass.

I was hooked by Thick after reading a few pages because the experiences described resonated with me deeply. The further I read, the more I was pushed to affirm myself and my own lived experiences. Each chapter was indeed thick in truth and wisdom.

I cannot wait to purchase a copy of Thick. As I read, I realized that each sentence would stay with me, in fact many sections are written on my heart but I need to have them highlighted just to bring them to memory.

One of the most compelling parts of Thick is how it gives the reader(particularly Black women) not only permission to be who you are unapologetically but it pushes you to not stop, it affirms you to say “Yes, you have been right all along and you have to keep going”.

Thick is not a quick read, rather it is a jolt of electricity to the heart that seeks to let you know that your voice matters no matter what you may face each day. While it touches on the truth that so many Black women have endured since the beginning of time, it does offer a new way of walking into our excellence.

In addition, Thick offers gems for various moods or seasons that you may find yourself in. It caused my deepest emotions to burst forth in a life affirming way. There were sections that made me howl with laughter and there were sections that made me weep in a way that only someone who feels seen can ever reach.

Although Dr. McMillan Cottom is a thinker, I would also put her in a category of preacher due to the life affirming words that she offers forth into the world and the refrain that serves as the hook to this swan song which puts freedom in our hands. The larger takeaway becomes what are you going to do after you fix your feet?
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