cover image Thick: And Other Essays

Thick: And Other Essays

Tressie McMillan Cottom. New Press, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-62097-436-0

In eight incisive, witty, and provocative essays, 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.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated this book was the author's first.