Hanif Abdurraqib

A Little Devil in America
  • A Little Devil in America

  • LONGLISTED FOR THE GORDON BURN PRIZE

    'Gorgeous' - Brit Bennett
    'Pure genius' - Jacqueline Woodson
    'One of the most dynamic books I have ever read' - Clint Smith

    At the March on Washington, Josephine Baker reflected on her life and her legacy. She had spent decades as one of the most successful entertainers in the world, but, she told the crowd, "I was a devil in other countries, and I was a little devil in America, too". Inspired by these words, Hanif Abdurraqib has written a stirring meditation on Black performance in the modern age, in which culture, history and his own lived experience collide.

    With sharp insight, humour and heart, Abdurraqib explores a sequence of iconic and intimate performances that take him from mid-century Paris to the moon -- and back down again, to a cramped living room in Columbus, Ohio. Each one, he shows, has layers of resonance across Black and white cultures, the politics of American empire, and his own personal history of love and grief -- whether it's the twenty-seven seconds of 'Gimme Shelter' in which Merry Clayton sings, or the magnificent hours of Aretha Franklin's homegoing; Beyoncé's Super Bowl show or a schoolyard fistfight; Dave Chapelle's skits or a game of spades among friends.

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was named a book of the year by BuzzFeed, Esquire, NPR, O: The Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and Chicago Tribune, among others. His most recent book, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, debuted on the New York Times bestseller list.

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