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), now in paperback
“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).
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: EXCERPT1. In the opening essay of Thick, McMillan Cottom discusses the many ways in which she is proudly contradictory. What contradictions does she highlight? What might cause the author—or anyone—to frame aspects of their identity as contradictory? Think about the contradictions you embody and share them with your discussion group. Do you feel misread or reduced on a regular basis? How do you assert your complexity, your “thickness,” in a world that wants you to be conveniently “thin”?
2. In “In the Name of Beauty,” McMillan Cottom complicates widely accepted definitions of beauty and challenges readers to consider the function and purpose of beauty. Discuss what concepts shape your own definition of beauty and how you apply notions of beauty or ugliness to yourself. Using your own observations, can you think of examples of hypocrisy in mainstream feminist discourses surrounding beauty?
3. In the same essay, McMillan Cottom says that “if beauty is to matter at all for capital, it can never be for black women.” What point do you think the author is making by identifying people as “economic subjects” in this essay?