cover image Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness

Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness

Edited by Rebecca Walker. Soft Skull, $14.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-59376-417-3

Despite the slenderness of this collection of essays on the zen of cool by several influential cultural visionaries, Walker (Black, White and Jewish) knows how to approach a fashionable theme from all angles. After an informed foreword by historian Henry Louis Gates Jr., the various commentaries on the fundamentals and potential of this African-American cultural export domestically and globally are written by such trendsetters as writer Mat Johnson, performing artist Staceyann Chin, critic Dream Hampton, photographer Dawoud Bey, writer Veronica Chambers, essayist Miles Marshall Lewis, critic Margo Jefferson, fashion maven Michaela Angela Davis, and educator-activist bell hooks. Three of the standouts are Chamber’s “Hunger,” Chin’s “Authenticity,” and hooks’s “Forever,” where elements of the personal give meaning to the topic and touch the reader in a significant way. While Hampton discusses “Audacity” as mastering fear and Bey explains “Swagger” as “a way to reclaim and celebrate viscerally an aspect of self that has historically eroded,” Lewis pays tribute in “Always Evoking” to the sound sorcerer Miles Davis, a musician of the cool sound whose constant mode was change. Walker and her band of scribes are in top form, giving a rich, varied picture of Black cool style at its most frosty. (Feb.)