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Nafissa Thompson-Spires Books In Order

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Heads of the Colored People (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon

Nafissa Thompson-Spires is a Jamaican born American based author of fiction and short stories. Spires earned her first doctorate from Vanderbilt University and a Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of Illinois. Her work has been featured in Lunch Ticket, Story Quarterly, and The Feminist Wire and many other publications.

Spires became a published author in 2018 when her collection of short stories Heads of the Colored People was published. The book has been longlisted for the Kirkus Prize Finalist and National Book Award.

Heads of the Colored People

Four years after the launch of The North Star an anti-slavery newspaper, Frederick Douglas reached out to a man (James McCune Smith) he later claimed influenced him more than anyone in his life.

According to Douglas, Smith was one of the sharpest minds of the era and at times considered to be most learned African American before the likes of W.E.B Dubois. Smith now forgotten mainly despite his contributions rose to fame as a cosmopolitan who after being rejected from Geneva’s and Columbia’s medical schools for being black went on to earn three degrees from the University of Glasgow. Upon his return to America, he became the first African-American trained physician to establish his practice. He founded Radical Abolitionist and highly criticized Thomas Jefferson’s narrow-minded views about race in a publication Notes on the State of Virginia.

Douglas wanted Smith to compose some pieces for the paper- Frederick Douglas Paper after some financial difficulties. In response, Smith responded with a fantastic set of work titled Heads of the Colored People under the penname Communipaw. The works focused on the aspects of the black people working class in New York, portraying fugitive slaves, interracial sexuality, vendors and more. His mentions of black women sexuality defied the politics of their time and made Douglas- who preferred chaste and sanitised portraits of blacks- uneasy.

McCune Smith declared his installments “Word Paintings” in 1859. Another series of word painting of blacks was featured in short-lived Anglo-African Magazine by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper under the pen name Jane Rustic. Just like Smith, Rustic was a prominent intellectual in her time-(a black woman who lectured about abolitionism and advocated for feminism)- but remains neglected today.

Nafissa Thompson-Spires mentions these three series in her debut short story collection titled Heads of the Colored People which is a new millennium’s different version of Smith’s installments.

Spires owe many debts- some which she acknowledges in the supplied bibliography and an endnote- to a broad range of text from famous Japanese anime to Ralph Ellison to Percival Everett. Hilarious, smart, heartbreaking, funny and ingenious, Spire’s collection a simple yet challenging question: what does it mean being African-American in the 21st century?

The author’s metafictional satires revolving around the question of blackness unite in a common tradition of African-American fiction relating to the sardonic absurdism of Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and Everett’s Erasure.

The stories in this Spire’s debut collection span between Jamaica where she was born and the United States where she now lives. You will find depictions of Island life where a betrayed wife shows up at the home of her husband’s love affair carrying a blunt machete; a Brooklyn student party brought to a pause by an argument about Dunham’s Girls and the story of a pop star resembling the famous singer Rihanna.

Several stories in the collection give a glimpse and examine the United States history through the reflection of the characters’ motherland.

Racial politics in the United States also a significant basis of the Heads of the Colored People. Spire’s electric style is erudite, extrovert and entertaining. The first story in the collection is that of two black men who are shot by the cops after a fight outside a comic’s conference in LA. One of the black men is Riley who is described as having bleached blond hair and wearing contact lenses. Occasionally you feel the self-interpreting, the fizzing voice is doing some heavy tasks in distracting the readers from the revelation of the characters subdued past.

Suicide Watch is the story of a young woman monitoring her social media fans to see whether they will spots clues that she wants to die. However, in the end, the main character gets more than she ever bargained for.

In The Subject of Consumption short story, we meet a documentary maker who sets out to film the chaos of an extreme fruitarian named Lisbeth whose African man is criticized by his friends for marrying a white woman.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Nafissa Thompson-Spires

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