A Little Devil in America is about Black performances, mostly in America, but there are a few stories of Americans overseas. It covers things like Soul Train, Whitney Houston, Don Shirley, spades, funerals, Merry Clayton on the Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter”, and so much more. Quite frankly, this book is beautiful and you should read it.
Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, and every word in this book is carefully chosen and strung together especially well. From the page this book happens to be open to right now: “The backup singers, man. They get to be memorable for a few minutes at a time and forgotten all the minutes in between. I want to know if Mick saw every wretched tooth in the mouth of the world’s most wretched beasts trembling and falling to the ground. There is some awful reckoning to be had in a song like that. Some awful things to be lived with.”
The other thing is that there is so much love in A Little Devil in America. Love for Black people, who so often don’t get it. You can tell he loves being Black and being a part of Black culture. “I do remember playing spades until the clouds brightened with the promise of a coming sun. I do remember someone I love falling asleep with their face on the table, among the pile of scattered cards. And I do remember the moment when they woke, there was a single card stuck to the edge of their forehead. I never looked to see, but told myself whatever card it was, it had to be the lucky one.”
A Little Devil in America was wonderful. I’m going to go read the rest of his books now.