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
New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
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.
"Mychal's coming-of-age book, his first, is a masterful meld of personal reflection, political analysis, and honest insight that yearns to be felt, must be read, and demands to be seen." umi selah, organizer and co-founder, the dream defenders
"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." Jessica Valenti, Guardian (US) columnist and author of Sex Object: A Memoir
"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." Kiese Laymon, author of How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
"Invisible Man, Got The Whole World Watching is quintessentially Mychal Denzel Smith: brilliant, honest, courageous, hilarious, and transparent....one of the best and most authentic examples of black male feminist cultural criticism that we have ever seen." Marc Lamont Hill, author of Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond
"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?" Melissa Harris-Perry, Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University
"Born into the grim and brutal realities of systemic racism, police violence, and the prison industrial complex, Smith's work — searing yet funny — is, in some ways, a miracle. He has survived the grave challenge of simply being a young black man in America and has lived to tell the tale." Jeremy Scahill, author of Dirty Wars and Blackwater
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, the Grio, Think Progress, and 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.