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This Will Be My Undoing
Cover of This Will Be My Undoing
This Will Be My Undoing
Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America
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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 Ngozie 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.
Whether she's writing about Sailor Moon; Rachel Dolezal; the stigma of therapy; her complex relationship with her own physical body; the pain of dating when men say they don't "see color"; being a black visitor in Russia; the specter of "the fast-tailed girl" and the paradox of black female sexuality; or disabled black women in the context of the "Black Girl Magic" movement, Jerkins is compelling and revelatory.

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 Ngozie 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.
Whether she's writing about Sailor Moon; Rachel Dolezal; the stigma of therapy; her complex relationship with her own physical body; the pain of dating when men say they don't "see color"; being a black visitor in Russia; the specter of "the fast-tailed girl" and the paradox of black female sexuality; or disabled black women in the context of the "Black Girl Magic" movement, Jerkins is compelling and revelatory.

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About the Author-
  • Morgan Jerkins is an associate editor at Catapult whose work has been featured in The New Yorker, Vogue, the New York Times, The Atlantic, Elle, Rolling Stone, Lenny, and BuzzFeed, among many others. She lives in New York.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 13, 2017
    Jerkins’s debut collection of essays forces readers to reckon with the humanity black women have consistently been denied. Her writing is personal, inviting, and fearless as she explores the racism and sexism black women face in America: “Blackness is a label that I do not have a choice in rejecting as long as systemic barriers exist in this country. But also, my blackness is an honor, and as long as I continue to live, I will always esteem it as such.” In her opening essay, Jerkins recounts the moment the division between black girls and white girls became clear to her, when she was told by a fellow black girl that “they don’t accept monkeys like you” after Jerkins failed to make the all-white cheerleading squad. This marks the first of many times that Jerkins asserts that a black woman’s survival depends on her ability to assimilate to white culture. A later essay addresses the paradox of the explicit sexualization of black women’s bodies and the cultural expectation that black women must be ashamed of their own sexuality in order to be taken seriously in a white world. At one point in the book, Jerkins lauds Beyoncé’s Lemonade as art that finally represents black women as entire, complex human beings. One could say the same about this gorgeous and powerful collection.

  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2017

    Jerkins provides a critical view of American culture, similar to Reni Eddo-Lodge's Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race, which is about the intersection of race and feminism in British culture. Here, the pop culture essayist examines her life as a feminist woman of color while sharing insight on her faith as it relates to contemporary culture. Weaving personal narratives with historical, social, and cultural anecdotes, Jerkins discusses such topics as body image, race identification, fitting in, dating, sexuality, faith, disability, and the Black Girl Magic movement. Each chapter provides insightful, personal, and frank analysis of how several identities can and do overlap with one another; especially being a black women of faith in white America. Jerkins provides awareness into her own complexities--college-educated, black, female, Millennial, feminist--in an attempt to figure out where she fits in and in an effort to uncover the intricacies of her multilayered identity. VERDICT For those interested in a younger perspective on black studies and feminism.--Tiffeni Fontno, Boston Coll.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2017
    In the provocative essays collected in her first book, Jerkins meditates on how it feels to be a black woman in the United States today.Brought up in suburban New Jersey, educated at Princeton, and now living in Harlem and working in publishing, the author often feels like an outsider. Her essays, usually deeply personal and always political, examine that unease. In the first, she goes back to elementary school, when she realized that "the only thing I wanted was to be a white cheerleader." Other pieces consider the fraught issue of hair for black women, the self-repression imposed by the taboo against being thought a "fast-tailed girl," the social pressure to identify as a "human" rather than as a "black woman," and her ambivalence about the "black girl magic" movement. Some of her most effective essays take unusual shapes: one is an open letter to Michelle Obama, addressing her as "the beacon that reminds white people that 99 percent of them will never reach where you are," and another is an ironic list of instructions on "How to Be Docile," which provides the black female subject with everything she needs: "looks, deference to man, suppressed sexuality, silence." At times, particularly in the final essay, which lists many of the black women the author believes could have helped her and didn't, Jerkins comes across as whiny. Sometimes, as in the piece about the many reasons she decided to have labiaplasty, she appears to be working hard to justify her actions. While she identifies herself as a feminist, the primary "other" against whom Jerkins sets herself is the automatically privileged white woman, "supported, cared for, and coddled."At its best, the book reveals complicated, messily human responses to knotty problems. Never intended as the final word on the black female experience in America today, it uncovers the effect of social forces on one perceptive young woman.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    July 1, 2018

    Jerkins has penned a complex look at what it means to be an African American woman who subscribes to the tenets of feminism but finds herself marginalized by and chained to a narrative crafted for her, not by her. These essays explore the many ways systemic racism and a lack of true solidarity within feminist circles impact black women. In "Monkeys Like You," the author deftly juxtaposes her dream of making an all-white cheerleading squad against the lunchroom bullying she receives at the hand of darker-skinned African American classmates. "How To Be Docile" examines how African American mothers sometimes unwittingly limit their daughters' sense of agency. Jerkins also thoroughly inspects the politics of natural hair, dating while black, and problematic voyeuristic writing, explaining how our culture separates a black woman from her humanity. This is an intensely personal, honest account of one woman's fight to reclaim her own narrative one word at a time. VERDICT An excellent addition to memoir collections.-Desiree Thomas, Worthington Library, OH

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • New York Times Book Review "Without turning linguistic or lyrical cartwheels, Jerkins lucidly articulates social dynamics that have dictated the realities of American black women for centuries.... Indeed, [This Will Be My Undoing] is a book I wish everyone in this country would read."
  • Porochista Khakpour, author of Sons & Other Flammable Objects, The Last Illusion, and Sick Morgan Jerkins is a star, a force, a blessing, a scholar and a critic, and now can add great American essayist to that list! I found myself sighing, nodding, gasping, laughing, and crying while reading this collection–but mostly cheering! We can all sleep well at night knowing this country will inherit heart, mind, and soul like this. It's safe to say I've never read anyone this young–barely at quarter life!–who can understand herself, those around her, past and present, with such dignity and clarity and generosity. Intersectionality in America is dissected, investigated, celebrated and challenged all without being pedantic or preachy or pretentious. And Jerkins is the sort of benevolent intellectual you want to spend time with–who will never lie to you, but also will never let you lie to her. I've long known that feminism and arts and media owe so much to the excellent work of black women and This Will be My Undoing is yet another testament to that.
  • Library Journal Review "Each chapter provides insightful, personal, and frank analysis of how several identities can and do overlap with one another."
  • Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh and Queen of the Night "There's a radical honesty and warmth in these essays, no matter the topic."
  • Alana Massey, author of All the Lives I Want "Threaded together by prose that is at once tender and disarming, Morgan Jerkins's debut collection is an invitation to conversation with a ferocious intellect and a singular, uncompromising voice. In essays that confront the forces of anti-blackness and misogyny, Jerkins demonstrates that being unflinching does not require that we be unmoved. Readers who encounter this debut will be hard-pressed not to have felt something shifted within themselves when they put it down."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Jerkins's debut collection of essays forces readers to reckon with the humanity black women have consistently been denied. Her writing is personal, inviting, and fearless as she explores the racism and sexism black women face in America... [a] gorgeous and powerful collection."
  • Shelf Awareness "Jerkins has strong character, and This Will Be My Undoing is likely just the beginning of her influence on the role of black women in the United States. As she is careful to point out, she is just one voice and her story doesn't speak for all black women, but with any luck her one voice will inspire other voices to add to the chorus of change."
  • Los Angeles Times "A beautiful example of possibility, nuance and passion coexisting, even in our heightened political...
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This Will Be My Undoing
This Will Be My Undoing
Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America
Morgan Jerkins
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