Cover image for Thick : and other essays
Thick : and other essays
Physical Description:
248 pages ; 23 cm.
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 -- Notes.
In these eight ... explorations on beauty, media, money, and more, Tressie McMillan Cottom--award-winning professor and ... author of Lower Ed--embraces her ... role as a purveyor of wit, wisdom, and Black Twitter snark about all that is right and much that is wrong with this thing we call society. --


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 301.092 COT 1 1
Book 301.092 COT 0 1
Book 301.092 COT 0 1

On Order




Named a Best Book of the Year by Time and Chicago Tribune

As featured by The Daily Show, NPR, PBS, CBC, Time, VIBE, Entertainment Weekly, Well-Read Black Girl, and Chris Hayes, "incisive, witty, and provocative essays" (Publishers Weekly) by one of the "most bracing thinkers on race, gender, and capitalism of our time" (Rebecca Traister)

"Thick is sure to become a classic." --The New York Times Book Review

In eight highly praised treatises on beauty, media, money, and more, Tressie McMillan Cottom--award-winning professor and acclaimed author of Lower Ed--is unapologetically "thick": deemed "thick where I should have been thin, more where I should have been less," McMillan Cottom refuses to shy away from blending the personal with the political, from bringing her full self and voice to the fore of her analytical work. Thick "transforms narrative moments into analyses of whiteness, black misogyny, and status-signaling as means of survival for black women" (Los Angeles Review of Books) with "writing that is as deft as it is amusing" (Darnell L. Moore).

This "transgressive, provocative, and brilliant" (Roxane Gay) collection cements McMillan Cottom's position as a public thinker capable of shedding new light on what the "personal essay" can do. She turns her chosen form into a showcase for her critical dexterity, investigating everything from Saturday Night Live, LinkedIn, and BBQ Becky to sexual violence, infant mortality, and Trump rallies.

Collected in an indispensable volume that speaks to the everywoman and the erudite alike, these unforgettable essays never fail to be "painfully honest and gloriously affirming" and hold "a mirror to your soul and to that of America" (Dorothy Roberts).

Author Notes

Tressie McMillan Cottom is an associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author of Lower Ed. Her work has been featured by the The Daily Show, the New York Times, the Washington Post, PBS, NPR, Fresh Air, and The Atlantic, among others. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

In eight incisive, witty, and provocative essays, debut author Cottom (Lower Ed), a Virginia Commonwealth University assistant sociology professor, highlights structural inequalities and explores the black female experience in contemporary America. She lucidly reflects on her personal story, as the daughter of parents who moved north to Harlem, where she was born, then back to the South. To this, she adds data and research, showing, for instance, that regardless of education level, black women are commonly treated as "incompetent" in the health care system, where they are "243% more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than white women." Cottom goes on to observe that black women and girls fear speaking up about sexual abuse, due to the extra "burden of protecting the reputations of black boys and men" and that, despite "generations of earned and inherited moral philosophy that has sustained families, communities and institutions," aren't seen as authorities on much of anything. Other topics include LinkedIn as an emblem of neoliberalism's failure, tensions between African-Americans and black people from other countries, and how beauty and self-esteem are treated as commodities. The collection showcases Cottom's wisdom and originality and amply fulfills her aim of telling "powerful stories that become a problem for power." (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Sociology and personal experience blend in a concise collection of essays about contemporary black American women.These essays are distinguished by the fact that McMillan Cottom (Sociology/Virginia Commonwealth Univ.; Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, 2017, etc.) is clearly dedicated to including the whole range of her being, from the detached academic who rigorously footnotes each of the essays to the emotional first-person narrator of the experiences of sexual abuse and societal exclusion. As a "black woman who thinks for a living," the author describes herself as caught in the middle of some invisible battle, accused by one editor of being "too readable to be academic, too deep to be popular, too country black to be literary, and too nave to show the rigor of my thinking in the complexity of my prose." From this positionuncomfortable for her but stimulating for readersMcMillan Cottom takes aim at a range of targets. "In the Name of Beauty" makes the controversial case that a black woman cannot by definition be beautiful, because "beauty isn't actually what you look like; beauty is the preferences that reproduce the existing social order. What is beautiful is whatever will keep weekend lake parties safe from strange darker people." In "Dying to Be Competent," the author takes the horrifying story of the death of her premature baby and extrapolates to discuss the consequences of assuming that even the most educated and wealthy black women are unable to manage their lives properly. "Black Is Over (Or, Special Black)" dissects with sardonic zeal the tendency of colleges to choose students from Africa or the Caribbean over black students from the United States. "When there is only room for a few blacks there is a competition for which black should prevail," she writes. Throughout, the meshing of the personal and political and the author's take-no-prisoners attitude make these essays sizzle.A provocative volume bound to stir argument and discussion. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

New York Review of Books Review

LANDFALL, by Thomas Mallon. (Pantheon, $29.95.) The latest of this author's Washington political novels imagines the goings-on inside (and outside) George W. Bush's White House in 2005-6, with a romance between aides figuring as prominently as Iraq and Hurricane Katrina. ALL THE LIVES WE EVER LIVED: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf, by Katharine Smyth. (Crown, $26.) In this elegiac memoir written in the wake of her father's death, Smyth turns to Woolf's masterpiece "To the Lighthouse" for comfort and insight. Her exploration of grown-up love, the kind that accounts for who the loved one actually is, gains power and grace as her story unfolds. LADY FIRST: The World of First Lady Sarah Polk, by Amy S. Greenberg. (Knopf, $30.) Greenberg argues that Polk, the slaveowning territorial expansionist who was married to the 11th president, was one of the most powerful and influential first ladies in history. BOWLAWAY, by Elizabeth McCracken. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $27.99.) McCracken's long-awaited new novel offers a rich family saga, a history of candlepin bowling and a burlesque chronicle of American oddballs. It's a crowded book, but McCracken's ironic perspective and humane imagination never desert her. THE COLLECTED SCHIZOPHRENIAS: Essays, by Esme Weijun Wang. (Graywolf, paper, $16.) Wang draws on her own multiple psychotic breaks and hospitalizations to present a picture of schizophrenia that never reduces it to pathology. She effectively explores the state of mind she enters when gripped by an episode, recasting it as simply another form of consciousness. WE CAST A SHADOW, by Maurice Carlos Ruffin. (One World, $27.) This ingenious novel, set in a futuristic American South and featuring a father willing to go to extremes to protect his son from racism, marks the debut of an abundantly talented and stylish satirist. NOTES FROM A BLACK WOMAN'S DIARY: Selected Works of Kathleen Collins, edited by Nina Lorez Collins. (Ecco/HarperCollins, paper, $17.99.) Collins, who died in 1988, is best remembered as the first black woman to direct a feature film ("Losing Ground"). But she was a skilled writer too, and this collection, edited by her daughter, probes complex interior lives. THICK: And Other Essays, by Tressie McMillan Cottom. (New Press, $24.99.) This profound cultural analysis, a model of black intellectualism, deftly mixes the academic and the popular. DRAGON PEARL, by Yoon Ha Lee. (Rick Riordan/Hyperion, $16.99; ages 8 to 12.) Elements of Korean mythology turbocharge this space opera, in which a shape-shifting fox disguised as a human seeks her missing brother. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web:

Library Journal Review

Cottom, (sociology, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.; Lower Ed) presents her first collection of essays, chronicling her life as a black woman in America. In eight timely and direct pieces, Cottom discusses everything from the importance of seeing oneself reflected in literature and the meaning of beauty to the Trump administration, #MeToo, and other events of the modern day. Common threads involving the black experience, current events, and moments from Cottom's own life run through each essay. With such broad themes, the work sometimes feels disjointed, but Cottom writes with great clarity and familiarity, which makes her essays a pleasure to engage with despite their wide breadth. Highly accessible and to the point, this is a great sketchlike anthology for fans of authors such as Roxane Gay. VERDICT Cottom offers a skimming discussion on the challenges of being black and a woman in America while making excellent points. Readers interested in social justice will find a number of quotable passages, whether for casual or academic use.-Abby Hargreaves, Dist. of Columbia P.L. © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.