2021 Memphis Reads: Thick, and Other Essays
by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Dr. Tressie Cottom
Cover for Thick by Dr. Tressie Cottom

Memphis Reads, the Memphis community common reading program based at Christian Brothers University, is pleased to announce its book selection for 2021. A book is selected each year that engages Memphians in issues that directly affect their lives, and this year’s selection — Thick, and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom — meets that criteria by exploring the Black female experience in today’s America.

Publisher’s Weekly calls Thick an “incisive, witty, and provocative” collection that “showcases Cottom’s wisdom and originality and amply fulfills her aim of telling powerful stories that become a problem for power.” Itwas named a top book of 2019 by TIMENew York Times Book Review, New York Public Library, and Chicago Tribune; was a finalist for the National Book Award; and was the winner of the 2019 Reading Women Award for Nonfiction.

Memphis Reads @ CBU Welcomes Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom

Register today for your invitation to the livestreamed event!

Memphis Reads 2021 Events

Guests are encouraged to contact event organizers prior to attendance as some events may have COVID safety protocols in place.

  • Tuesday, September 28, 6:00 pm | Film screening of Souls of Black Girls and talk
    University of Memphis | Memphis Room in University Center
  • Tuesday, October 5, 6:00 pm | Film screening of Just Wright & panel discusssion
    University of Memphis | River Room in University Center
  • Wednesday, October 13, 7:00 pm | Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom talk and reading
    Christian Brothers University | University Theater
    Due to COVID protocols, this event is limited to CBU community members and special guests. Livestreaming will be available at www.cbu.edu/memphisreads.
  • Thursday, October 14, 12:00 pm | Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom talk and reading
    LeMoyne-Owen College | The Little Theater
  • Thursday, October 14, 6:00 pm | Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom talk and reading
    Rhodes College | McNeill Concert Hall
    Due to COVID protocols, this event is limited to Rhodes community members and special guests. More information at www.rhodes.edu.
  • Sunday, October 17, 1:30 pm | Film Screening of Ouvrir la Voix (Speak Up) and panel discussion
    Memphis Public Library

2021 Partners and Sponsors

Sponsors include SouthArts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, FirstBook, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

This Presentation is funded, in part, by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission.

This project is funded under a Grant Contract with the State of Tennessee.

Community Partners

Memphis Reads is a community partnership between Christian Brothers University, Rhodes College, The University of Memphis, LeMoyne-Owen College, Facing History & Ourselves, Memphis Public Libraries, City of Memphis, NOVEL Bookstore, Shelby Co. Schools, Whole Child Strategies, National Civil Rights Museum, and Momentum Nonprofit Partners.

Memphis Reads @ CBU

Memphis Reads @ CBU is CBU’s first-year summer reading program and is a part of the Memphis community common reading program, Memphis Reads. The program gives new students a common academic experience and connects them with the campus community, as well as the Memphis community. First year students, upperclassmen, and faculty members read the same book and have numerous opportunities to discuss it throughout the school year at various First Year Experience events.

A book is selected each year that is engaging and thought provoking. In turn, new students are asked to read the book, consider the issues it raises, and respond to it with an essay. The top ten winners of the essay contest will be featured during Welcome Weekend and at the writer’s talk.

Memphis Reads @ CBU

As you arrive at CBU and embark on a new chapter of your life as a college student, we hope that your Memphis Reads @ CBU book will move you to think about your life so far and the lives of those around you, motivating you to change, serve, respond, and consider. You will receive a free copy of the book when you arrive on campus for Orientation. If you would like to get started on your book before Orientation, you can purchase the book on your own, borrow it from your local library, or click HERE for a digital copy provided by Plough Library.

The Essay Prompt

In addition to reading the book before Navigate CBU, first time freshmen might also be inclined to begin writing – or at least considering – the essay required for their CBU 101 course, an assignment due September 10. Here’s the prompt:

After reading Thick, write a short essay of at least 600 words discussing Cottom’s goal for this book: “I hope these essays break open space for black women thinkers” (31). What are three specific events/ people/ objects/ examples that she uses to help her readers to understand the crisis that black women and/or black people are facing today in the U.S.? And how do these examples “open space” for addressing this crisis? Finally, and most importantly, what action(s), however big or small, are you willing and interested in taking in response to reading this book?

2020 Fresh Reads Top 10

Previous Memphis Reads @ CBU Book Titles:

  • 2020: We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • 2019: Memphis: 200 Years Together by a collection of Memphis authors
  • 2018: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • 2017: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • 2016: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
  • 2015: What is the What by Dave Eggers
  • 2014: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
  • 2013: The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
  • 2012: The Noticer by Andy Andrews
  • 2011: The Soloist by Steve Lopez


Dr. Karen B. Golightly
Chair and Associate Professor, Literature & Languages