Dec. 9 – Nafissa Thompson-Spires- Heads of the… [Advent Calendar]

The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2018
Advent Calendar
December 9


 Heads of the Colored People:

Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Hardback: Atria, 2018
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*** Best Fiction Book of 2018


“I wanted to represent black characters who are marginalized in the white world, but also even marginalized within blackness: people who are accused of sounding white because of the way they speak, people who are really nerdy—a different angle of black identity,” Thompson-Spires says. “That’s a thing I think a lot of us know well, but I haven’t read too many stories about those kinds of people.”

The book’s title and format are based on a series of literary sketches titled “Heads of the Colored People, Done with a Whitewash Brush,” published between 1852 and 1854 in the weekly Frederick Douglass’ Paper, out of Rochester, N.Y. The author, James McCune Smith, was a surgeon—the first black American to obtain a medical degree. He was an abolitionist and a public intellectual whom Douglass had appointed as his paper’s New York correspondent. Writing under the pseudonym Communipaw, McCune Smith’s satirical sketches focused on New York’s black working class. Thompson-Spires credits her scholar husband, Derrick Spires, with introducing her to McCune Smith’s work, which, she says, “narrates black life from the mundane to the obscure and spans the didactic to the macabre.”

 – from a profile of this book in Publishers Weekly



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