Mychal Denzel Smith Finds the Intersection of Past and Present Invisible Man, Got The Whole World Watching (Book Review)

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Invisible Man Got The Whole World Watching Cover Photo by Black & Bookish

This post has been updated as of February 28, 2017. 

One of the most pernicious effects of racism on the psyche is the constant questioning of one’s worth and purpose. It can be almost as debilitating as death. Almost. I don’t wish to make these seem equivalent. I have my life; Travon does not.
— Mychal Denzel Smith

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Mychal Denzel Smith is a writer for the Nation and frequent knowledge dropper on Twitter. Not much younger than me, his work includes writing about mental health, politics, and race. He even uses personal accounts to connect you to an even bigger idea. As a true millennial (in a great way I think), he has made a name for himself on his terms, somehow using his anger as fuel and not dismissiveness.

Smith's debut book is a study of his personal growth into manhood and the larger ideas and philosophies that shaped those important moments in his life. He chronicles snapshots or turning points in his formal (schooling/college) education against the social constructs we learn just from spending time with those around us. Through his thoughtful mix of historical context and personal narrative, Invisible Man Got The Whole World Watching felt like no book I had read before.

Mychal Denzel Smith ( Google Images )

Mychal Denzel Smith (Google Images)

Smith was able to accomplish in writing the way my brain seems to work. He would take the historical accounts of our collective culture and place those decisions onto his own body. He used well-researched examples (his thoughts on Respectability Politics floored me) and then followed their historical trail straight to him. It wasn't a hypothetical of what would happen if we followed or ignored certain ideas. He was examining his beliefs based on concepts created, argued, and implemented without his consent.

He introduced his reader to the relationship black men have to things labeled too taboo to acknowledge (black women, homosexuality, mental illness) and then he candidly talked about them. Those chapters where the most interesting to read because they are almost never mentioned as something we should question. He talked about why he felt that way, and could admit his faults on being human. I didn't know I needed this or was even looking for it, but he carefully explained the paradigm of his own blackness.

This is the type of book I wish I could buy an infinite number of copies and just hand them out on the street. It changed my life and clarified my writing call. This is a book I plan on reading again and again (something I never do) and I recommend everyone go out and experience it. You can also follow Smith on Twitter.




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Antoinette Scully Headshot by Sara MacFarlane

About the Author

Black & Bookish is the brainchild of Antoinette Scully, educator and lover of all things bookish. She is on a quest to fill your bookshelves with beloved authors of the African Diaspora. When she's not hanging out on line, she's living it up as the mother of two rambunctious girls and wife of a local filmmaker.