The debut book from Knobler Fellow and Nation writer Mychal Denzel Smith, Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching, is a personal and political coming-of-age that melds candid detail with trenchant analysis. Taking its title from a Mos Def lyric, Smith's book shares a revealing and self-aware recap of his development as a young black millennial and budding wordsmith. Confronting his own assumptions (about a variety of subjects and social issues), Smith is a smart, searching, and skilled writer, one committed to chronicling not only his own challenges, but also those of a culture still mired in prejudice, bigotry, disregard, and disenfranchisement.
Confronting patriarchy, homophobia, misogyny, the mental health stigma, and Obama's politics of race, Smith turns an incisive eye to issues that are often overlooked within his own community — calling out movements that seek solidarity while excluding the most defenseless and vulnerable. There's an enviable fervor and zeal to Smith's writing, yet, at times, he seems to vacillate between recognizing the power of his own critical thinking and doubting in his ability to excel in conveying it (which combine to great effect in revealing a very human duality). Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching is unabashed and unequivocal, and Mychal Denzel Smith's a keen observer of both himself and the world around him. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
How do you learn to be a black man in America? For young black men today, it means coming of age during the presidency of Barack Obama. It means witnessing the deaths of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, and too many more. It means celebrating powerful moments of black self-determination for LeBron James, Dave Chappelle, and Frank Ocean.
In Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching, Mychal Denzel Smith chronicles his own personal and political education during these tumultuous years, describing his efforts to come into his own in a world that denied his humanity. Smith unapologetically upends reigning assumptions about black masculinity, rewriting the script for black manhood so that depression and anxiety aren’t considered taboo, and feminism and LGBTQ rights become part of the fight. The questions Smith asks in this book are urgent—for him, for the martyrs and the tokens, and for the Trayvons that could have been and are still waiting.
"Decades ago, Toni Cade Bambara wrote, ‘The purpose of a writer is to make revolution irresistible.’ Mychal Denzel Smith, in addition to crafting a genius piece of art that swims through politics and prose, has created one of the first books of my lifetime that makes structural and interpersonal revolution irresistible. Unlike many 20th and 21st century memoirs written by black men, Smith convinces readers that any conversation or movement towards black liberation that doesn't also reckon with heteropatriarchy is brittle at best, and likely destructive. Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching is the first book of my life that I need to read with my mother, my grandmother and my children. Mychal Denzel Smith has done it. He has written a potential revolution." Kiese Laymon, author of How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
“Mychal Denzel Smith takes us on a political and cultural journey of young black manhood that unapologetically examines, parallels, and weighs the influence of Obama and LeBron, Kanye and Trayvon, Malcolm X and Chapelle on his own becoming in the 21st century. By centering the black boy he once was, the boy many refuse to see, we face him head-on. Smith trusts us to not only see him in all his vulnerability, bravado, and incisiveness, but to know him. This is Smith’s selfless offering." Janet Mock, New York Times bestselling author of Redefining Realness
"With this book, Mychal Denzel Smith solidifies his place as one of the most important voices of his generation. A gifted storyteller with sharp political analysis, he straddles the personal and political with aplomb. This is a book everyone should read." Jessica Valenti, Guardian US columnist and author of Sex Object: A Memoir
"It has become routine to witness black boys meeting violent ends. Captured on police dash cams or bystander smart phones we watch black boys die as videos replay hourly on cable news and are clicked feverishly on YouTube. It is still rare to watch black boys grow — to hear them laugh or cry, to declare their passions and to reason carefully. This is part of why Smith's book is so affirming, necessary, even delightful despite its brutality and angst. Mychal Denzel Smith answers the pressing but unasked question, what would happen if all those black boys felled by bullets had a chance to make mistakes, read books, fall in love, hone skills, take new paths, and grow up? The story is fully and unflinchingly Mychal's and because Mychal is so distinctively self-aware, so intellectually invested, and emotionally raw, it cannot simply stand in as a generic tale for all the lost black boys— except that they too would have had stories entirely their own to tell if only they had had a chance to write them. We owe it to them and more importantly to ourselves to read Mychal's book and render visible what we would rather forget." Melissa Harris-Perry, Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University
"A useful blueprint for radical and intersectional politics in a country where a black child can grow up to be president but where living while black is still dangerous." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and a contributing writer for The Nation magazine. He has also written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Salon, Feministing.com, The Guardian, The Root, theGrio, ThinkProgress, and The Huffington Post, and he has been a featured commentator on NPR, BBC radio, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera America, HuffPost Live, and a number of other radio and television programs.
Mychal Denzel Smith on PowellsBooks.Blog
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