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Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom


by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Quick take

Insightful perspectives on blackness, body image, and BBQ Becky.

Why I love it

Syreeta McFadden
Writer, @reetamac

Too often, I’m led to believe that I don’t belong anywhere. I don’t quite fit the contours of our society: I’m at an age that firmly situates me between boomer and millennial. I don’t fit the projected expectations of what a woman of my size and shade should be. American society is selective when choosing to recognize the fullness of my humanity—and too often, it chooses to deem my existence a problem.

“Black girls and black women are problems. That is not the same thing as causing problems,” writes McMillan Cottom in Thick. “We are social issues to be solved, economic problems to be balanced, and emotional baggage to be overcome.” McMillan Cottom situates her personal stories as the lens to delve deeper into social constructions that perpetuate inequities and harm. In these eight essays covering her own pregnancy, beauty, culture of competence, and black girlhood, as well as eviscerating critiques of whiteness in American life, Thick centers black women experiences and asserts black women wisdom.

Thick is incisive and heady, cerebral and “black-black,” layered in its storytelling and sharp in its rigor. As a sociologist, she is able to strip away social conventions to interrogate how limiting we view black women. McMillan Cottom moves from the finite to the expansive, exacting in her deconstructions of race, class, and gender work in tandem with the sprawling realities that shape policy that governs black bodies in the public square. She creates space for a layered, complex, nuanced black body, black woman intellectual and social critic, wide-eyed and aware, visible. McMillan Cottom is a stylist and intellectual who defies category and genre, and this collection captures these multitudes that dwell within her.

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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.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Thick.

Member thoughts

All (1167)
All (1167)
Love (655)
Like (456)
Dislike (56)
1198 ratings
  • 55% Love
  • 38% Like
  • 5% Dislike
  • Phoenix, AZ

    So many topics in racism, feminism, and sub cultures of Black America I never knew existed and honored to walk through these importsnt themes in Cottom’s shoes. Unapologetic and poignant! Must read.

  • Asheville, NC

    I can’t recommend this book enough. Her writing style is gorgeous. The essays were heartwrenching, eye-opening, and cut to the core. I want more of McMillan Cottom, she should be required reading!

  • Seattle, WA

    Makes one think about all the little (and big) ways society has not given, and has actively taken, the space (opportunities, support, humanity, etc) for Black women to be successful or even just live.

  • Philadelphia, PA

    Tressie is an excellent writer. I found myself unable to put the book down in the middle of an essay. She blows a lot of topics wide open, and instead of answers, gives you 1000 more questions to ask.

  • Brooklyn, NY

    Just wow. Couldn't put it down, read it in two days. A great insight into what society is and feels like for a black woman writer. TMC's prose is raw, funny, and thought-provoking. Highly recommended

  • Albany, NY

    This book offers a very different view of feminism that everyone should see. Seeing the struggle of Black Americans is important in the process of unlearning racism ingrained in our culture. Loved it!

  • New York , NY

    Some essays are better than others, but as a whole it was incredibly interesting and eye opening. I was shocked, but (unfortunately) not necessarily surprised by some of the facts and data presented.

  • Mesa, AZ

    I have a thing for cultural critiques, and boy did TMC deliver! As a woman of color, I felt personal truths being exposed and a sense of joy that these stories were in print, no matter how difficult.

  • Coopersburg, PA

    Enlightening view of life as a black woman in America. Some essays were easy to follow, others more difficult; some essays were also tough to swallow - but important insight came through in each one.

  • Chicago, IL

    Thick is a stellar collection of essays. Cottem writes concisely & precisely with a strong voice. The essays are both personal and journalistic. For such a slim volume, it offers a lot to consider.

  • New york , NY

    This essay collection was solid. I loved the way this was written. There are so many good quotes and important insights here. I think it was a good balance of topics and the arguments were clear.

  • Houston, TX

    Dr. Cottom’s succinct and unapologetic stance as a Black woman made me reexamine my place in the world as a disabled white woman. I know I have privilege. Dr. Cottom showed me the details.

  • Washington, DC

    This is one of those books that is going to stick in my brain for ages. When I finished reading it I felt like I couldn’t talk about it yet because I needed time to process all the content.

  • Alexandria, VA

    I devoured this book of essays in a matter of two days. It felt like Cottom and I were talking over a coffee (or at times, a bourbon) and she was sharing her life stories with me. A must-read!

  • Albuquerque, NM

    This book is required reading! It helped me gain more insight on what it is like to be a black woman in this country. It also made me realize some things ive been doing wrong. Must read

  • Corpus Christi, TX

    Enlightening and thought provoking. Definitely a valuable read especially in the current social climate. A great step in trying to understand another's experience & the need for change.

  • Brooklyn, NY

    Each essay has you wade deep into a topic without feeling like you're lost in it, I loved the intention of essays too. I'm still processing it and think it's my favorite read this year.

  • Locust Grove, GA

    Heck of book. These essays were so thought provoking for me and now I want to read more of her work! I laughed at times and was down because of circumstances I’ve never experienced.

  • Allen, TX

    I follow Dr. Cottom on twitter and she is the best. This was thought-provoking and funny. I really enjoyed it and made my husband listen to it too so he could learn from it as well!

  • Brooklyn, NY

    Tressie McMillan Cottom is the perfect mix of funny and informative. I was super engaged in her storytelling, and it really supplemented the information she presented in each essay.

  • Calypso
  • Trick Mirror
  • Shrill
  • Fair Play
  • What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker
  • Thick

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