Heads of the Colored People

A black man with a bleached-blond bob and blue eyes walks on a sidewalk. And before we get any further, the narrator tallies and deconstructs the many assumptions you might already have—about the man's appearance, his relationship to race, even his sexuality—and how little room they’ve left for him to walk down the street. 


This is the first story in Nafissa Thompson-Spires’s debut short-fiction collection, Heads of the Colored People.


The man—Riley, straight, wearing colored contacts, heading to a cosplay convention—doesn’t make it inside. He and a man pushing pamphlets misunderstand each other, and their confrontation draws the police, and the police pull their guns, and video of the shooting hits the internet.


This isn’t the end of the story, just another edge for it leap over, down into the writer’s heart: “How to end such a story, especially one that is this angry, like a big black fist? The voice is off-putting. All the important action happens offscreen; we don’t even see the shooting or the actual bodies or the video. Like that one guy in fiction workshop said, meta is so eighties.” PLEASE READ


Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, from Atria