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  • Writer's pictureEvangeline Lawson

Flyboy in the buttermilk by Greg Tate

"The traditional failing in black criticism has been to accept a dichotomy between a bland universalism and a parochial black nationalism, and then to side with one or the other. What Tate understands in that culture, Afro-American culture in particular, is never a matter of either-or. He can both celebrate the energizing pull of cultural nationalism and register its limitations, moral and intellectual." (Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)

What I appreciate about books of essays is that they don't have to be read in order typically, but you can gain so much from less words (in comparison to typical nonfiction). So upon receiving this book, I jumped right into the chapter about Michael Jackson, because, why not? Plus as described in the forward of the book, Greg Tate's style allows for thorough examination from both sides of an argument, but it's direct and not watered down. He definitely doesn't hold back.

In Tate's discussion of Michael Jackson's changing appearance, he states "Slavery, minstrelsy, and black bourgeoisie aspirations are responsible for three of the more pejorative notions about blacks in this country-blacks as property, as ethnographic commodities, and as imitation rich white people. Given this history, there's a fine line between a black entertainer who appeals to white people and one who sells out the race in pursuit of white appeal." He continues in is evaluation by explaining the different phases of Michael Jackson's appearance corresponding with his chart-topping albums.

This is just one excerpt from an essay in a book exploring social, political, and economic subjects that are at play in contemporary America and I was both intrigued and entertained. His thoughts are both scholarly and relatable, making Flyboy in the buttermilk both an engaging and enjoyable read.

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