A finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Non-Fiction, Hanif Abdurraqib’s A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance (2021) is an essay collection that investigates the meaning and power of Black performance throughout history.
From Depression-era dance marathons — “When the thick fog of exhaustion set in…it was desire that kept a dancer’s body upright. When the desire wore off, it would be another dancer…” — to a personal reflection on being a Black punk going to shows in the Midwest — “…if you were rolling with Black punks, and especially if you and your Black punks were from out of town, the spaces you pulled up in might not be safe for you and whatever release you might be looking for…” — A Little Devil in America covers a wide range of subjects and styles.
This is Abdurraqib’s fifth book after the essay collections Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest (2019), a New York Times bestseller, and They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (2017), and the poetry collections A Fortune for Your Disaster (2019) and The Crown Ain’t Worth Much (2016).
If you enjoyed A Little Devil in America, we suggest these Ohio side trips:
- Abdurraqib’s “The Vanishing Monuments of Columbus, Ohio” in The New Yorker
- Wil Haygood’s Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World
- David Giffels’ The Hard Way on Purpose
- Hanne Blank’s Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality