cover image This Will Be My Undoing

This Will Be My Undoing

Morgan Jerkins. Harper Perennial, $15.99 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-266615-4

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. [em](Jan.) [/em]