White Girls by Hilton Als
I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret: the title comes from the collection’s unspoken thesis: we “other” people in order to understand ourselves, and here, specifically, Als takes on his own problematic desire to trade his life as a queer black man for that of a white girl’s. This collection resists identity politics, while being deep with identity. And with that, this is probably one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read—in form and subject. You want to call his ideas fucked, but he’s not wrong. Als whips back and forth between the bawdy and the stone cold, the highly restrained highbrow and fistfuls of unravelling (and justified) anger. I’ll admit the first essays is a gorgeous, cyclical juggernaut, but the ones that follow are some of the best literary criticism I’ve read. When you have capacity please, please, please check this out!