I am in your inbox today with a little news. From the official press release, which is set to release today but is coming to you first:
NEWS FROM RANDOM HOUSE
Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, MacArthur Fellow and bestselling author of THICK, a National Book Award finalist for nonfiction, is writing two new books for Random House. Executive Vice President and Associate Publisher Kate Medina and Vice President and Executive Editor Jamia Wilson acquired North American and audio rights at auction from Dorian Karchmar at WME.
The first book, BASIC, will be a paradigm-shifting exploration of how white identity is created, commodified, and disseminated as a dominant cultural, economic, and political force via hidden-in-plain-sight forms of status seeking. The second book, entitled THE VIVIAN, will be a searing memoir that explores contemporary Black motherhood through the lens of McMillan Cottom's own experiences with her mother and draws upon the history of the Jim Crow south, the post-civil rights movement, and America's foundational brutality towards Black mothers.
Dr. McMillan Cottom is a sociologist, professor, podcaster (Hear to Slay with Roxane Gay), and writer whose work has earned critical and popular renown. She is an associate professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science; a senior faculty researcher with the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and a faculty affiliate at Harvard University's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.
“I am thrilled to be working on these books at this cultural inflection point and with Random House,” McMillan Cottom said. “In their own way and together, Black motherhood and whiteness' powerful banality define our society's foundational divisions. Kate and Jamia bring depth, breadth and passion to our dream partnership. Their editorial acumen is matched only by Random House's fierce commitment to books that change the way we understand the world."
“Tressie is a force,” says Random House publisher Andy Ward. “A rigorous thinker, a beautiful writer, and a voice whose ideas could not be more essential in this moment – and beyond. All of us at Random House are honored to be working with her.”
Random House is an imprint and a division of Penguin Random House LLC
That isn’t just PR-speak. I really am thrilled to be joining Random House and to be working with Kate and Jamia. This was not a casual decision. Everyone I talked to about my next two babies was brilliant, generous, and kind. Selling these books was a bit like a dream graduate seminar with a bunch of geniuses focused on your work in all good faith. I swoon just thinking about it.
I learned so much from publishing my first two books, both with the estimable Tara Grove for The New Press. It is precisely because Tara is so great that I know how important the editor-writer relationship is to producing your very best work. Kate, Jamia and I have the spark.
Between us, I kept telling my best friends and my agent (the marvelously witty, smart-ass, caring Dorian Karchmer with Endeavor-William Morris) that I was casting the editors for the documentary of my life. You see, I am an only child and a Libra. I take for granted that there will be a documentary one day. I mean, I wrote an Oscar speech when I was nine-years-old. I do not want for confidence, if you know what I’m saying. When I one day watch that documentary, I want my lifelong editors to be just as I imagined they would be. I just know that Kate and Jamia will do splendidly in the Tressie documentary!
More seriously, I do not write unless I have something to say and I know in my deepest self that only I can write it. Here is what I know for sure: these are those projects, this is the right time to write them, and I have the best circumstances from which to be writing them.
What does that mean for you? It means you will see snippets of thinking here on essaying. You may see formal thinking in your favorite publications over the next few years. And, you will hear a lot of whining. It is all part of the process. Welcome.
If you are awake this Saturday morning, you still have time to join me in a conversation with Farah Jasmine Griffen about her absolutely beautiful new essay collection “Read Until You Understand” at the Schomburg Literary Festival.
If you are in Memphis, please get ready to be THICK’d up because it has been selected as the 2021 Memphis Common Read!
And, I will be joining the Loyala University-Chicago community this Fall as THICK becomes their 2021 Rambler Read.
Thank you to the selection committee on this one. I know that choosing the university common read is a daunting task. I am really honored to be selected.