thoughts on THICK

By | March 23, 2019

Currently listening (re-listening for the 3rd time) to Tressie McMillan Cottom’s audiobook, THICK. Had to draw some of the stuff to hold the ideas longer.

THICK @tressiemcphd #viznotes #chapter1

Thick is a collection of essays where narratives flow beautifully into arguments that are so clear and cogent that you cannot disagree. Usually, by the end of the chapter I am outraged and indignant at the injustices black women face and the obstacles they must overcome on a daily basis.
The first chapter as an introduction weaves the whole series of essays into the over-arching tale of “fixing one’s feet”. The true personal history doubles as a parable that serves to make social theory concrete. Tressie’s blend of research: academic/lived, primary/secondary provide data to “show her work” as empirics. The whole book works this way. Not as an awkward metaphor but a real empirical study of the self which mirrors society.

In case it’s not clear, the personal essay is exceptionally important but that’s not what Tressie writes. She is a good storyteller but her narratives are performing acts of sociology.


In a society that only confers moral authority to certain groups who hold and maintain power, black women are rarely given the authority to speak on any topic: politics, economics, sports, climate science, urbanization, or even their own lives. The one small concession power will yield, is the study of the self via personal essay. Silenced voices then began to “shoehorn” political analysis, economic policy, social movement theory, and queer ideologies to the personal essay format.

Wealth, high income, professional status, marriagiability, religious leadership, beauty are signals of capital and status, which grants you moral authority in society. By definition, many of these efficiently do not include black women.

In subsequent chapters, Tressie shows us how black women are the future because they know/have known for centuries about massive inequity, which seems to only now becoming apparent to the shrinking white middle class.

These are evocative stories that I hope create a problem for power.

Highly recommend.

Buy the book.

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