Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 334
Heads of the Colored People is a 2018 short story collection written by American writer Nafissa Thompson-Spires. It is the author’s first novel, and in it she covers a plethora of socially relevant and contemporary themes, focusing mainly on African-American culture, race, and identity. She chooses to keep a light tone, and a witty, often humorous narrative, and vividly describes what it means to be an African American in this day and age.
Other relevant themes that Thompson-Spires covers are feminism, suicide, racism, and oppression. For instance, she writes of a young black girl named Jilly, who lives her life in the public eye and tracks everything on her social media. She is currently contemplating suicide, and decides to post about it on Facebook, asking her friends and followers what would be the best way to kill herself;
In the story “Black Letters”, she writes of two girls, Fatima and Christina, who are the only black students in a private elementary school. Their mothers, both PhDs, exchange abusive letters via their daughters’ backpacks. Fatima’s life is chronicled in other stories as well, such as "The Body's Defenses against Itself" and “Fatima, the Biologist.”
In the title story "Heads of the Colored People: Four Fancy Sketches, Two Chalk Outlines, and No Apology," Thompson-Spires talks about a Black man named Riley, who is on his way to a comic convention, cosplaying his favorite Japanese manga character by wearing blue contacts and blonde hair. On the way, he faces several problems and complications, clashing with a black artist who doesn’t like his appearance. He gets some mean remarks and some mild discrimination, until the police gets involved, which is when the situation suddenly become much more serious.
Essentially, Thompson-Spires creates a myriad of diverse and original characters, presenting a unique portrait of American’s life. The collection received many positive reviews and several awards and nominations, and Thompson-Spires was praised for her inventive and intelligent storytelling, with critics branding her as an “author to watch.”
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