The Millions

Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ Gets the Book Treatment

A New Orleans police cruiser sinks beneath rising floodwater. A bouncy and ratchet-grooved R&B beat pummels like the noonday sun of Louisiana. And, looking resplendent in a striped red dress, Beyoncé reclines atop the squad car chanting, “I slay, I slay.” This unforgettable scene closes out the music video for “Formation,” the final track on the singer’s 2016 visual album Lemonade.

The choreographed riot also sets an opulent stage for a new, hard-to-classify work of music writing by Omise’eke Tinsley. In Beyoncé in Formation: Remixing Black Feminism, Tinsley charts how the luscious veneer of Lemonade conceals a subversive, empowering, and downright badass disruption of the cultural narratives that give shape to blackness, femininity, motherhood, southernness, and sexuality in America. Tinsley regards Beyoncé as a potential healing voice for many queer, femme, and trans* folk, who are often not given the space to speak their own stories. Part scholarly treatise and part family history, part lavish scrapbook and part justice-oriented advocacy—you’ve never read a book quite like this.

For this interview with The Millions, Tinsley talked about writing like a remixer, the startling wisdom found in autobiographies of famous female country singers, and Beyoncé stepping into the role of a paradigm-slaying hero.

The Millions: Your book is called Beyoncé in Formation: Remixing Black Feminism. How is your book a remix and why did you choose that form?

As I set out to write this book, one of my questions was, “How am I going to write about Beyoncé?” She has a lot of music. There is a lot that people have said about her. Initially, my editor imagined that I would tell a story that began with the first solo album and continued through , or went track-by-track on . But I didn’t feel like that would be a book I was particularly suited to write. Instead of writing a book the way that I was taught

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