A conversation with Thomas Chatterton Williams.

By Alexander Hurst

Thomas Chatterton Williams is the author of Losing My Cool, a memoir about the struggle of juggling the hip-hop culture of his New Jersey childhood and a father who pushed him to develop a love of literature. He is a Contributing Writer at the New York Times Magazine, and has written for The New Yorker, The American Scholar, Harper’s, and other publications. His next book, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, will be published by Norton. He is a National Fellow at New America and the recipient of a Berlin Prize.

In your memoir, Losing My Cool, you reflect on what whiteness and blackness are, and what popular society tells us they are. What are the main conclusions you arrived at?

It’s a coming of age memoir, about my childhood and adolescence in New Jersey, and it’s also a father and son story about the very different black experiences I had in the East than he had in the segregated South. He’s really old enough to be my grandfather, so he had very different social experiences, he was born in the 1930’s, the pre-civil rights era.