Hanif Abdurraquib, presented by the Paper Plains Literary Festival
Note: This is a virtual event. RSVP here!
Paper Plains is honored to welcome Hanif Abdurraqib to deliver the Richard W. Gunn Memorial Lecture, presented by the Commons and the University of Kansas Department of English. Abdurraqib will discuss his groundbreaking new book A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance.
About the Book
A stirring meditation on Black performance in America from the New York Times bestselling author of Go Ahead in the Rain
At the March on Washington in 1963, Josephine Baker was fifty-seven years old, well beyond her most prolific days. But in her speech she was in a mood to consider her life, her legacy, her departure from the country she was now triumphantly returning to. “I was a devil in other countries, and I was a little devil in America, too,” she told the crowd. Inspired by these few words, Hanif Abdurraqib has written a profound and lasting reflection on how Black performance is inextricably woven into the fabric of American culture. Each moment in every performance he examines—whether it’s the twenty-seven seconds in “Gimme Shelter” in which Merry Clayton wails the words “rape, murder,” a schoolyard fistfight, a dance marathon, or the instant in a game of spades right after the cards are dealt—has layers of resonance in Black and white cultures, the politics of American empire, and Abdurraqib’s own personal history of love, grief, and performance.
Abdurraqib writes prose brimming with jubilation and pain, infused with the lyricism and rhythm of the musicians he loves. With care and generosity, he explains the poignancy of performances big and small, each one feeling intensely familiar and vital, both timeless and desperately urgent. Filled with sharp insight, humor, and heart, A Little Devil in America exalts the Black performance that unfolds in specific moments in time and space—from midcentury Paris to the moon, and back down again to a cramped living room in Columbus, Ohio.
About the Author
Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism have been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was released in June 2016 from Button Poetry. It 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 released in winter 2017 by Two Dollar Radio and was named a book of the year by Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. He released Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest with University of Texas press in February 2019. The book became a New York Times Bestseller, was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. His second collection of poems, A Fortune For Your Disaster, was released in 2019 by Tin House, and won the 2020 Lenore Marshall Prize. In 2021, he will release the book A Little Devil In America with Random House. He is a graduate of Beechcroft High School.
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • “A masterpiece” (Minneapolis Star Tribune), a “devastating” (The New York Times) meditation on Black performance in America from the MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow and bestselling author of Go Ahead in the Rain
A New York Times Best Seller
A February IndieNext Pick
Named A Most Anticipated Book of 2019 by Buzzfeed, Nylon, The A. V.
“When an author’s unmitigated brilliance shows up on every page, it’s tempting to skip a description and just say, Read this! Such is the case with this breathlessly powerful, deceptively breezy book of poetry.” —Booklist, Starred Review
*2018 12 best books to give this holiday season --TODAY Show
*Best Books of 2018 --Rolling Stone
The Crown Ain't Worth Much, Hanif Abdurraqib's first full-length collection, is a sharp and vulnerable portrayal of city life in the United States. A regular columnist for MTV.com, Abdurraqib brings his interest in pop culture to these poems, analyzing race, gender, family, and the love that finally holds us together even as it threatens to break us.