I purchased a copy of HEADS OF THE COLORED PEOPLE by Nafissa Thompson-Spires when @badgalreadingshared on Instagram that she will be hosting a buddy read. I had this book on my mental TBR ever since it was published but now I was pushed to finally get a copy and read it.
This book review / commentary is going to be different than my usual format. Instead of sharing my sole review, I will be sharing the thoughts of everyone in the buddy reads group. Our group was formed as a group chat on Instagram but thanks to @reggiereads we were able to do a group video chat over on Google Hangouts and our discussion was nothing short of amazing! I felt like I had known these people forever and the book discussion was great.
Without further ado, let’s discuss HEADS OF THE COLORED PEOPLE.
Heads Of The Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Overview – Spoiler Alert: Low
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.
– Synopsis taken from book.
Review + Commentary – Spoiler Alert: Low
As mentioned above, I will be sharing the thoughts of everyone in the buddy reads group. We will be sharing our overall thoughts on this collection of stories and mentioning our favorites!
This book created a mashup of the satirical and poignant and the expected and unexpected to illustrate how Black people are not a monolith but often encounter similar experiences. The author did a great job of emphasizing the individuality of the characters and their stories to add a unique and valuable perspective of the Black experience. My favorite stories from the collection were “Heads of the Colored People: Four Fancy Sketches, Two Chalk Outlines, and No Apology” and “Suicide, Watch.”
Heads of the Colored People is a literary achievement from an author whose talent knows no bounds. A true master class in narrative versatility. This story collection collection showcases what happens at the intersection or race & technology, social media & narcissism, Middle-class living & Black identity. These are stories that we deserve.
I’ll go “Suicide Watch” & “The Belles Lettres.” As my faves. (Though as I ponder & potentially reread that may be subject to change.)
I really enjoyed this collection, especially how different all the stories were yet many of them were also connected in very inventive ways. My favorite story was Suicide Watch- I think it showed how social media can take over your life and the only thing that matters is the number of likes you get- and the ending, wow! But the story that gave me really strong feelings was Wash Clean The Bones, which clearly dealt with post-partum issues.
Heads of the Colored People is a fascinating collection of stories exploring Blackness in America. The characters were intriguing and complex. The writing was smart and thoughtful. The stories took risks and required the reader to think critically and stretch beyond the comfort zone. Nafissa Thompson-Spires brilliantly created a work that was refreshing, dark, humorous, alarming, and heartbreaking at the same time. So excited and proud to learn that Thompson-Spires received her MFA from UofI.
I absolutely loved the narrative told through short stories. I felt every emotion – humor, sadness, remorse, and love. Each story is a testament to the black experience, and my white privilege slapped me in the face throughout the entire book. I love reading about perspectives that are unlike my own. We cannot ignore the issues within race and push them aside.
But moms- that last story was HARD to read.
Heads Of The Colored People is an absolutely brilliant collection and a real eye opener. There are so many layers in black identity, and the author tries to unpack this through different characters all while addressing real life issues. My favorite stories were – “Belles Letters” and “Suicide Watch”. I enjoyed “Fatima, The Biloquist: A Transformation Story” because I wish I had a person like Violet in my life lol.
If you haven’t read this yet, please get yourself a copy and dive in.
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Have you read HEADS OF THE COLORED PEOPLE? Is it on your TBR?
Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments below.