Heads of the Colored People

Stories

Heads of the Colored People

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction and Kirkus Prize Finalist

Calling to mind the best works of Paul Beatty and Junot Díaz, this collection of moving, timely, and darkly funny stories examines the concept of black identity in this so-called post-racial era.

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.
  • Atria / 37 INK | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501167997 | 
  • April 2018
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Read an Excerpt

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Heads of the Colored People includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book

Introduction

In Heads of the Colored People Nafissa Thompson-Spires grapples with black identity and the contemporary middle class in the 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—from 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, to 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.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. In the opening story, “Heads of the Colored People: Four Fancy Sketches, Two Chalk Outlines, And No Ap see more

About the Author

Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Photography by Adrianne Mathiowetz Photography

Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Nafissa Thompson-Spires earned a doctorate in English from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois. Her work has appeared in Story Quarterly, Lunch Ticket, and The Feminist Wire, among other publications. She was a 2016 fellow of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop.

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