‘Thick’ Is the Essay Collection About Black Womanhood We All Need to Read

thick tressie mcmilan cottom

Tressie McMillan Cottom is a writer, sociologist and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University (not to mention an excellent Twitter follow). Her thought-provoking debut essay collection—after last year’s Lower Ed, about the rise of for-profit colleges—is Thick: And Other Essays.

In eight essays, McMillan Cottom combines rigorous research with candid first-person narrative to explore the politics of black womanhood in the 21st century, from the staggering stats about maternal mortality to the hesitation among black women and girls to speak out about sexual assault for fear of implicating black men and boys. (There’s also a timely section that discusses the ongoing allegations against R. Kelly.)

While the subject matter isn’t light, McMillan Cottom is subtly—and darkly—witty. She's thankful, for example, for the generic trashcans her city provides its residents, because, "I am really working on being a socialist black feminist. It would help if my comrades did not see my Amazon Prime boxes in my trash can."

Anyone familiar with McMillan Cottom’s work knows she’s not one to pull punches or shy away from potentially uncomfortable topics—her skepticism, for example, at white feminists' motivations in positioning themselves as allies to women of color. 

For fans of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage and Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad, Thick is frequently uncomfortable, but always compelling.

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sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...