Book Review – A Little Devil In America by Hanif Abdurraqib

First published, 2021

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

In A Little Devil In America, poet and essayist, Hanif Abdurraqib explores the impact of Black culture in America and the importance and vitality of Black people as part of, and also somehow separate from, the American dream.

The writing is stunning. Powerful, poetic and enthralling. I loved it from start to finish. I think I liked it even more because it didn’t need me to like it. As a little white woman in England, my understanding of American culture is limited to what I see on television and hear in the charts, but there were so many moments in this book, which I will cherish moving forward.

“I am afraid not of death itself, but of the unknown that comes after. I am afraid not of leaving, but of being forgotten. I am in love today but am afraid that I might not be tomorrow. And that is to say nothing of the bullets, the bombs, the waters rising, and the potential for an apocalypse. People ask me to offer them hope, but I’d rather offer them honesty. Black people get asked to perform hope when white people are afraid, but it doesn’t always serve reality. Hope is the small hole cut into the honest machinery. The milk crate is still a milk crate, but with the right opening, a basketball can make its way through. If I am going to be afraid, I might as well do it honest. Arm in arm with everyone I love, adorned in blood and bruises, singing jokes on our way to the grave.”
P247, Fear: A Crown, A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib

Just stunning.

The shout-outs to various figures in popular culture were profound and beautiful. The whole piece is written with pathos and unexpected humour, and in such a strong, rich voice, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.