With this collection of more than fifty pieces on politics, photography, travel, history, and literature, Teju Cole solidifies his place as one of today’s most powerful and original voices. On page after page, deploying prose dense with beauty and ideas, he finds fresh and potent ways to interpret art, people, and historical moments, taking in subjects from Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and W. G. Sebald to Instagram, Barack Obama, and Boko Haram. Cole brings us new considerations of James Baldwin in the age of Black Lives Matter; the African American photographer Roy DeCarava, who, forced to shoot with film calibrated exclusively for white skin tones, found his way to a startling and true depiction of black subjects; and (in an essay that inspired both praise and pushback when it first appeared) the White Savior Industrial Complex, the system by which African nations are sentimentally aided by an America “developed on pillage.”
Teju Cole is a novelist, critic, and photographer. He is the author of the essay collection Known and Strange Things and two works of fiction, Every Day Is for the Thief and Open City. He has won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Internationaler Literaturpreis, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award for Fiction, and the New York City Book Award. He has been short-listed for the PEN Open Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2015, he won the Windham Campbell Prize and a United States Artists Fellowship. His photography has been exhibited in India, Iceland, Germany, and the United States, and was the subject of a solo exhibition in Italy in 2016. He is the photography critic of The New York Times Magazine, where his “On Photography” column was a finalist for a 2016 National Magazine Award and was recognized with a 2016 Focus Award for excellence in photographic writing from the Griffin Museum of Photography. His forthcoming book is Blind Spot.