cover image Heads of the Colored People

Heads of the Colored People

Nafissa Thompson-Spires. 37Ink, $22 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6799-7

In Thompson-Spires’s debut collection, she turns her keen eye onto members of the black community that don’t often receive center stage—a maker of YouTube videos that induce the tingly autonomous sensory meridian response in viewers (“Whisper to a Scream”), fruitarians (“The Subject of Consumption”), and the differently abled and the women who love them perhaps a little too much (“This Todd”). Thompson-Spires eschews the easy or sentimental, and there is a satirist in her that lends the stories a dark, funny edge; for example, Fatima learns how to be black from an albino girl named Violet. The confidence she gains from their lessons lands Fatima her first (white) boyfriend, to whom she betrays Violet’s insecurities about her albinism. In the title story, an anime cosplayer named Riley brawls with self-published comics artist Brother Man outside the Los Angeles Convention Center—the police, of course, misconstrue this, and an artist takes the opportunity to use the altercation and its aftermath in a personal project. This is also the most metafictional of the stories, with an omniscient “I” stepping away at the end to acknowledge the narrative clumsiness of the story before the reader can. Though the characters sometimes feel one-note, Thompson-Spires proves herself a trenchant humorist with an eye for social nuance. (Apr.)