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Doin' Big Thangs: The Root's Michael Harriot Inks a Two-Book Publishing Deal; Will Bring 'Wypipology' to the Masses

The Root’s Michael Harriot, cradling dual awards at the 2019 NABJ Awards.
The Root’s Michael Harriot, cradling dual awards at the 2019 NABJ Awards.
Photo: George M. Johnson (Michael Harriot)
It's Lit!It's Lit!Where all things literary live on The Root

He has clapped back at our hate mail weekly; regularly educates us on the inextricable links between American history and racism; has called out Pete Buttigieg on the biases and policies that most affect black America (prompting a sit-down with the presidential hopeful himself); and just this past weekend, The Root’s Michael Harriot broke Black Twitter—and, by extension, Twitter en masse—by introducing the concept of being #blackfamous. Now, the NABJ Award-winner and resident “wypipologist” of The Root is preparing to bring his brand of baldly-stated, black-ass brilliance to a bookstore near you.

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That’s right: after an understandably competitive auction fielded and negotiated by Tanya McKinnon at McKinnon Literary, Michael Harriot has closed a two-book, seven-figure deal with publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—and as we celebrate the ascension of yet another of The Root’s shining lights into the publishing world, we are thrilled to be relaunching our It’s Lit! section with this incredible announcement.

“Michael Harriot is a singular writer, someone whose work is both deeply thoughtful and sharply humorous,” Kate Napolitano, senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), tells us. “When his proposal first landed, I felt like an electric shock was running through me—this guy was going for it, swinging for the fences.

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“In an industry that has historically been insular, elitist, and majority white, we need more writers like Harriot, who fearlessly speak truth to power and push the necessary conversations to the forefront,” Napolitano adds, warning: “Beckys of the world, beware: Michael Harriot now has an officially sanctioned literary platform to take you down a peg.”

An officially sanctioned literary platform, y’all. Beware indeed, because as Harriot’s Twitter bio reminds us, “his pen is mightier than your sword.” In keeping with the meticulous research and clever criticism he’s known for here at The Root, his first two releases will also have sociopolitical and historical angles—and they already have titles:

“In Wypipology, Harriot will give readers a master class on the customs and habits of white folks, and in Black AF History, Harriot provides his unique spin to existing historical narratives,” HMH teases.

Of course, since we have the pleasure of working with Harriot every day, we also had the privilege of getting the scoop straight from the wypipologist’s mouth. He graciously told us the inspiration behind his upcoming tomes—the first of which is scheduled for release in 2021.

“I was raised in a white people-free environment until I was 12 years old and discovering how and where I fit in the world meant that I had to intentionally examine whiteness,” says Harriot. “Wypipology: A More Critical Race Theory is based on my contention that one cannot understand race, racism or white supremacy by studying black history, African American culture or blackness in general. The only way to understand race is to learn about the people who created, perpetuated and maintain the concept: White people.

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The book is one-quarter memoir, three-quarters anthropology and all funny,” he continues. “Whether it’s exploring the concept of race as an economic construct or figuring out why white people are born with the ability to ice skate, America will finally have the textbook and field guide it needs to understand our unmelanated, pinch-of-salted brethren.”

As Harriot indicates, Wypipology will be formatted like a textbook—including quizzes, supplemental reading, a glossary and the like. (If you also had flashbacks of ‘80s-era slideshows while reading that, raise your hand.)

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As for Black AF History, scheduled for 2022, Harriot credits Twitter for making the upcoming book a reality, as his hugely popular history threads have been shared by millions across the platform. Harriot tells us: “Black AF History is an unapologetic and entertaining reframing of America’s untold Black history. Readers will learn how fear of a race war spawned the Second Amendment; the stories of black women who freed more slaves than Harriet Tubman; when white supremacists overthrew the U.S. government and how not being invited to a cookout created American policing.”

Frankly, we can’t wait to see what insights Harriot brings to our largely unknown history—because just like the name of this column, when it comes to his writing, it’s (always) lit!

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But when asked how he feels about this pivotal moment in his career, our beloved Harriot remains humble—and humorous—as ever, telling us:

“Honestly, the most satisfying part of this experience was having the opportunity to hear some of America’s most respected publishing houses try to pronounce ‘Wypipology.’”

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, an avid eyeshadow enthusiast and always her own muse. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.

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