My Rating: 5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
From one of the fiercest critics writing today, Morgan Jerkins’ highly-anticipated collection of linked essays interweaves her incisive commentary on pop culture, feminism, black history, misogyny, and racism with her own experiences to confront the very real challenges of being a black woman today—perfect for fans of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists.
Morgan Jerkins is only in her twenties, but she has already established herself as an insightful, brutally honest writer who isn’t afraid of tackling tough, controversial subjects. In This Will Be My Undoing, she takes on perhaps one of the most provocative contemporary topics: What does it mean to “be”—to live as, to exist as—a black woman today? This is a book about black women, but it’s necessary reading for all Americans.
Doubly disenfranchised by race and gender, often deprived of a place within the mostly white mainstream feminist movement, black women are objectified, silenced, and marginalized with devastating consequences, in ways both obvious and subtle, that are rarely acknowledged in our country’s larger discussion about inequality. In This Will Be My Undoing, Jerkins becomes both narrator and subject to expose the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression that influences the black community as well as the white, male-dominated world at large.
This is a powerful read. It is a memoir but told as a collection of essays, discussing racism, sexism, prejudice, Michelle Obama, education, and more. This book is about sharing experiences, both good and bad. This is a story about connection and is simultaneously a cry to be heard and a beacon of hope for how to do better. You must read this book.
“You should’ve known I was coming.”
I highly recommend taking your time with this book. Jerkins clearly took the time to craft each story brilliantly and so each one deserves to be savored. These essays can also be difficult to read at times. They are uncomfortable because Jerkins is allowing us inside her life as a voyeur, and as such, her story is not everyone’s story. These essays can also be uncomfortable because anyone who is not a black woman will likely find themselves challenged to do better, to think more constructively, and to work to eliminate prejudices. For me, this book felt like a call to action just as much as it felt like an intimate portrait of one woman’s life. I think my favorite essay was “Who Will Write Us?” The themes of this essay are issues that I often consider myself. While the mainstream media is doing a better job of showing diversity and allowing for more representation, they could always do better. And I think this essay does a great job of allowing for conflicting emotions regarding seeing representation and wanting it to be better.
“My black womanhood does not cancel out my humanity.”
I think this book is an important reminder that intersectionality is essential. It is impossible to separate Jerkins from her womanhood, her blackness, or the fact that she exists as a black woman. She cannot choose to live one day as black and the next as woman. Our identities are all coexisting at all times and we need to remember that these various identities both enrich our lives and open us up to more prejudices. Jerkins does a fantastic job of allowing us to witness her navigating these identities as they play out in her day to day life.
“Why can’t we be wild? Because we are already wild. Why can’t we enjoy sex? Because we are already sexed without clothes ever having been peeled away from our bodies. Why can’t we be free? Because we were never free.”
Overall, I loved this book. This was challenging to read at times because Jerkins’s lived experiences were and are vastly different from mine, but that just makes this book that much more important to read. I think reading the perspectives of someone who doesn’t look like you or live like you is extremely important, especially when we are living in such volatile times. I cannot recommend this book enough. I also do suggest buying a hard copy if you can, as you’ll likely want to flag poignant lines and want to refer back to this text in the future. I know I will.
This book is…
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Page Count: 258
Available here from Book Depository.
Have you read This Will Be My Undoing? What memoir have you read recently?