Fritz Agency
Published by
Random House New York (March 2021)
Current material
Final PDF


Notes in Praise of Black Performance

by Abdurraqib, Hanif

A joyful, personal and introspective examination of black performance in America, in which race, history, culture, and entertainment collide

From breakout writer and peerless new voice Hanif Abdurraqib, the New York Times bestselling author of Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, comes a personal and introspective examination of black performance in America, in which race, history, culture, and entertainment collide.

A Little Devil in America is Abdurraqib's most exquisite writing to date. It is a profound act of artistry that is both wide-reaching and deeply focused: an entrancing meditation on the nature of black performance. The book is a celebration of the surprising ways in which black people have persevered, struggled, built a culture in an inhospitable land, and lived with joy and exuberance. It is filled with jubilation.

It is also filled with mourning. It is Abdurraqib at his most vulnerable and personal.

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism have been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us was named a book of the year by BuzzFeed, Esquire, NPR, O: The Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and Chicago Tribune, among others. His most recent book, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, debuted on the New York Times bestseller list.

Available rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Fritz Agency
Christian Dittus

Available View on Rightsdesk


“Startling, layered, and timely, this is an essential, illuminating collection that advances Abdurraqib's already impressive body of work.” (starred review)

Review: Booklist

“Poet, essayist, and cultural critic Abdurraqib studies the impact of Black performers throughout U.S. history, sharing his own poignant stories along the way. Inspired by Josephine Baker's extraordinary life and her self-proclaimed title of “little devil in America,” Abdurraqib pens respectful, heartwarming essays that reflect on other giants in music, television, cinema, and even magic VERDICT: Told with humor and grace, Abdurraqib's stories will inspire and provoke thoughtful meditations on how Black lives matter in all areas of life and art.” (starrred review)

Review: Library Journal

“It's an absolutely brilliant book from a critic who's become one of the country's most essential writers To call Abdurraqib anything less than one of the best writers working in America, and to call this book anything less than a masterpiece, would be doing him, and literature as a whole, a disservice.”

Review: Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Hanif Abdurraqib's genius is in pinpointing those moments in American cultural history when Black people made lightning strike. But Black performance, Black artistry, Black freedom too often came at devastating price. The real devil in America is America itself, the one who stole the soul that he, through open eyes and with fearless prose, snatches back. This is searing, revelatory, filled with utter heartbreak, and unstoppable joy.” —Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf “Hanif Abdurraqib has a way of taking slices of our cultural landscape, examining them, and transforming them into observations and analyses that leave me underlining the entire page. In A Little Devil iIn America, Abdurraqib brilliantly braids together history, criticism, and prose so stunning that it makes you want to read every word out loud just so you can hear its music. Everything Abdurraqib writes is a must-read, but this is his best yet. It is one of the most dynamic books I have ever read.” —Clint Smith, author of Counting Descent “Abdurraqib is one of the most brilliant writers I've ever read. A Little Devil in America needs to be on every bedside table, every high school and college desktop—in this age of revolution, this is that one book that everyone needs to read. Pure genius. I'm not trying to get at even some of the brilliance Hanif gets to with this book—there is just too much. From Black exceptionalism to Josephine Baker to old heads—he brings it and clarifies it, then shapes it into every bit of medicine we need right now.” —Jacqueline Woodson

Quote: Praise

“A thoughtful memoir rolled into a set of joined essays on life, death, and the Black experience in America Social criticism, pop culture, and autobiography come together neatly in these pages, and every sentence is sharp, provocative, and self-aware. Another winner from Abdurraqib, a writer always worth paying attention to.”(starredreview)

Review: Kirkus Reviews

Recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship Recipient of an Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence

Award News: Client

Top ten Best Books of 2021

Noteworthy: Publishers Weekly

Shortlisted for the National Book Award 2021

Award News: Client

"Abdurraqib, an award-winning poet, combines meditations on personal experiences—losing his mother, navigating the Midwestern punk scene—with affectionate studies of cultural moments and figures, beloved and under-sung alike. Abdurraqib views performance as an expression of life and a means of survival. “Okay, lover,” he writes, in an essay on dance marathons. “It is just us now. The only way out is through.”

Review: The New Yorker

"In this staggeringly intimate meditation, essayist and poet Abdurraqib, chronicles Black performance in American culture...Filled with nuance and lyricism, Abdurraqib's luminous survey is stunning." (starred review)

Review: Publishers Weekly

UK: Allen Lane; Italy: Black Coffee;

Foreign licence: Client

“In [A Little Devil in America], this poet, cultural critic, essayist and music buff uses the tales of Black performers to make poignant observations about race in America while using Black performance as a metaphor for the transcendent imagination, gliding through television, music, film, minstrel shows, vaudeville and even space. The book is also a candid self-portrait of Abdurraqib's experience as a Black man, written with sincerity and emotion...Abdurraqib has written an important book on the transformative power of that kind of love."

Review: The New York Times Book Review

More like this