Thursday, October 24, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

I was only supposed to read two stories, “Belles Lettres” and “The Necessary Changes Have Been Made” in order to decide which should be included in a collection of texts that address race, white supremacy and (mis)representation of Black people in the media. While both of these stories are good (and "Belles Lettres" is particularly trenchant) they imbricate race with so many other issues that I felt the primary point would’ve been lost or “diluted.”

So I continued reading the collection and when I got to the title piece knew I had found what I was looking for. The first story “The Heads of Colored People: Four Fancy Sketches, Two Chalk Outlines, and No Apology” also weaves in other issues (police shooting, intraracial dynamics, Blerd culture) with multiple depictions of Black masculinity that I found quite compelling. The only other story which I felt could have satisfied my requirements is “Fatima The Biloquist.” I love that we get to see multiple depictions of Fatima in various stories in the collection. I connected with this  particular story because it does such a clever job of discussing racial representation in the context of class, phenotype and language.
However, the standout stories in this collection (for me), apart from the aforementioned “Heads of the Colored People” and “Fatima The Biloquist” were “Suicide, Watch” and “Not Today, Marjorie.”
When I reached the last paragraph of “Suicide, Watch” I burst out laughing so loudly my husband laying next to me said “What happened?” Even when I recounted the story I couldn’t stop giggling at the brilliant premise and payoff of that story. "Suicide, Watch" is worth the price of the entire collection.

Many of the stories are about unlikable people or people in uncomfortable situations and not every story is great or memorable. (But one of the joys of short story collections is that if you don’t like what you’re currently reading, it will be over pretty soon.) Some of the more memorable stories may be ones I didn’t particularly like, such as “This Todd” and “The Subject of Consumption.”

Overall, I would definitely recommend the collection as a whole and I know I am going to be anticipating reading what Nafissa Thompson-Spires writes in the future.

Title: Heads of the Colored People.
Nafissa Thompson-Spires.
Paperback: 203 pages.
 37 INK/ Atria.
Date Published: April 10, 2018.
Date Read: April 21, 2019.

★★½☆  (4.5/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.83/4.0).


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