I Just Keep Talking: A Life in Essays (Hardcover)

I Just Keep Talking: A Life in Essays By Nell Irvin Painter Cover Image

I Just Keep Talking: A Life in Essays (Hardcover)


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From the New York Times bestselling author of The History of White People and Old in Art School, a finalist for the NBCC Award, comes a comprehensive new collection of essays spanning art, politics, and the legacy of racism that shapes American history as we know it.

Throughout her prolific writing career, Nell Painter has published works on such luminaries as Sojourner Truth, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Malcolm X. Her unique vantage on American history pushes the boundaries of personal narrative and academic authorship. Led by an unbridled curiosity for her subjects, Painter asks readers to reconsider ideas of race, politics, and identity. I Just Keep Talking assembles her writing for the first time into a single volume, displaying the breadth and depth of Painter’s decades-long historical inquiry and the evolution of Black political thought—and includes a dazzling introduction and coda being published for the first time in this collection. From her mining of figures like Carrie Buck and Martin Delaney for their resonance today, to a deep dive into the history of exclusion through the work of Toni Morrison, to a discussion of the American political landscape after the 2016 election, Painter nimbly portrays the trials of a country frequently at war with itself.

Along with Painter’s writing, this collection offers her original artwork, threaded throughout the book as counterpoint and emphasis. Her visual art shows a deft mind turning toward the tragedy and humor of her subjects; pulling from newspapers, personal records, and original sketches, Painter’s artwork testifies to the dialectic of tremendous change and stasis that continues to shape American history.

These essays resist easy answers in favor of complexity, the inescapable sense of our country’s potential thwarted by its failures. This collection will surely solidify Painter’s place among the finest critics and writers of the last half century.
NELL IRVIN PAINTER, Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, Princeton University, is the author of books including the New York Times bestseller The History of White People; Sojourner Truth, A Life, A Symbol; and the National Book Critics Circle finalist Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2007, she has received honorary degrees from Yale, Wesleyan, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Dartmouth. After a Ph.D. in history from Harvard, she earned degrees in painting from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers and the Rhode Island School of Design. Nell Painter lives and works in East Orange, New Jersey, and has made artists' books in residencies such as MacDowell, Yaddo, Ucross, and Bogliasco. She currently serves as Madame Chairman of MacDowell.
Product Details ISBN: 9780385548908
ISBN-10: 0385548907
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2024
Pages: 464
Language: English
One of Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2024 • One of Electric Lit's 75 Books by Women of Color To Read in 2024

“Nell Irvin Painter is one of the towering Black intellects of the last half century…[I Just Keep Talking] is more than an odyssey for the senses; it’s a revelation that will inspire courage in anyone seeking to express their truth.” —Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

“Razor-sharp analysis lights up every page…[I Just Keep Talking] affirms Painter’s reputation as a historian and political commentator par excellence.” —Publisher’s Weekly *starred review*

“Painter. . . gathers more than 40 previously published essays, framed by a new introduction and coda, reflecting her shrewd analyses of issues including race, class, and gender; history and historiography; police brutality and poverty; art, education, and politics. . . A vibrant, insightful collection from an indispensable voice.” —Kirkus Reviews, *starred review*

“Whatever her subject—race, gender, class, art, politics—[Painter] finds the surprising complication. . .A vibrant, compelling book.” —Margo Jefferson, National Book Critics Circle Award Winner and author of Constructing a Nervous System

"Nell Painter is one of the most important and versatile American historians of the last half century. This stunning array of essays…contains a potent autobiographical sizzle from introduction to the end…Prolific, provocative, and with a voice all her own, Painter reveals with admirable vulnerability a mind in transit through time." —David W. Blight, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

“Nell Painter is one of the most important, influential and prolific historians of the United States…readers will learn a great deal about the country and just as much about how to craft a life of purpose and joy.” —Imani Perry, National Book Award-winning author of South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation

“Consistently brilliant, restlessly curious and profoundly empathetic, Nell Irvin Painter's voice is simply indispensable…With a historian's sense of context and a poet's gift of language she lays bare truths we've collectively ignored and points us toward the democratic possibilities we have yet to realize.” —Jelani Cobb, dean of the Columbia Journalism School and author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.

“Nell Painter has never minced words. Here, as she puts it, she keeps talking—in essays and artwork ranging from the 1980s to our own fraught moment, in explorations of Blackness and Whiteness, of the past and the present, of the verbal and the visual…one of America's most important historians.” —Drew Gilpin Faust, author of Necessary Trouble and former president of Harvard University

“Give thanks that Nell Irvin Painter won't stop talking—and thinking and writing and bringing the truth. And give thanks for these sage words on art, on history, on Blackness, on America, on survival from this bone-strong woman who keeps on keeping on, in glorious insistence.” —Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, author of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois

“For the past five decades, acclaimed writer, artist, historian, and critic Nell Irvin Painter’s work has felt ahead of its time….This insightful anthology shows why Painter, now 81 years old, is still one of the most important voices in America.” Time Magazine

“I Just Keep Talking reads like an intellectual adventure story…[Painter] writes that readers may be 'amused' by her book's title, and what it suggests about her persistence; just as likely, it will leave them wanting to hear more.” —Amy Davidson Sorkin