Author: Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Published: April 10, 2018
Publisher: 37 Ink
Where I picked up my book: Audiobook from the library
Key Words: Short Stories, Diverse Reads, Black Stories, Debut Novel
My Rating: 4
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction and Kirkus Prize Finalist
Calling to mind the best works of Paul Beatty and Junot Díaz, this collection of moving, timely, and darkly funny stories examines the concept of black identity in this so-called post-racial era.
A stunning new talent in literary fiction, Nafissa Thompson-Spires grapples with black identity and the contemporary middle class in these compelling, boundary-pushing vignettes.
Each captivating story plunges headfirst into the lives of new, utterly original characters. Some are darkly humorous—from two mothers exchanging snide remarks through notes in their kids’ backpacks, to the young girl contemplating how best to notify her Facebook friends of her impending suicide—while others are devastatingly poignant—a new mother and funeral singer who is driven to madness with grief for the young black boys who have fallen victim to gun violence, or the teen who struggles between her upper middle class upbringing and her desire to fully connect with black culture.
Thompson-Spires fearlessly shines a light on the simmering tensions and precariousness of black citizenship. Her stories are exquisitely rendered, satirical, and captivating in turn, engaging in the ongoing conversations about race and identity politics, as well as the vulnerability of the black body. Boldly resisting categorization and easy answers, Nafissa Thompson-Spires is an original and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.
Let me start off by saying, generally speaking, I am not a huge fan of short stories. There is something about diving into a story, being immersed in that world and staying there for a few days that I love. BUT...Heads of the Colored People may have changed my thinking! It was exactly what I never thought a short story collection could be.
First, each story truly has a life and feel of it’s own. As I said before, I don’t necessary like jumping around and having my soul flipped with each story and this seems like the opposite of what I like, but these stories almost warrant a need to flip. Some made me cry hard, some made me laugh, some made me tear up, some made me angry, but all were really powerful and shook me to my core.
Second, a few of these stories are connected by characters and by doing this, we get to see different sides of the story from different perspectives-which I LOVED. Maybe this helped me feel like I was on a journey while reading the book in it’s entirety, but either way-it was brilliant and I was happy to see some of the characters again when I thought I had to let them go in previous stories.
Third, the character development was out of this world. The personalities of most of these characters were so real, it was almost unreal and all I wanted to do was sit down and have a cup of coffee with them. Thompson-Spires wrote fantastic characters that made me feel all the feels.
Fourth, I learned more about what it is like to be Black and middle class. Yes, there are some commonalities in growing up with any skin color and middle class (I felt a connection having grown up in a relatively middle class home), but the ingrained insecurities and biases associated with being Black and middle class really come out in these stories. What does it feel like to be Black, middle class and female when there is a slight hostility against you simply for existing at this intersection? This question felt at the forefront of a lot of the stories and it was magnificent.
I’ve thought about this collection for weeks now and have attempted to write a raving review multiple times-but alas, I am failing at putting into words just how brilliant this collection is. Heads of the Colored People talks about Blackness, racial identity, middle class, our current digital age, personhood, privilege, politics, depression, parenting and so much more. It’s sure to make you more self-aware, see the world around you for what it is and what it isn’t, and see the quirks and intricacies of ourselves that we often dismiss or never even see. This is a fantastic collection that I would highly recommend!