cover image The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race

Edited by Jesmyn Ward. Scribner, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5011-2634-5

In this timely collection of essays and poems, Ward (Men We Reaped) gathers the voices of a new generation whose essays work together as one to present a kaleidoscopic performance of race in America. The 18 contributions (10 of which were written specifically for this collection) cover topics deep in history as well as those in the current culture. One, for example, reveals fresh insight about Phillis Wheatley, the first published African-American poet, and her husband, while other essays are situated in the present, taking readers on a tour of street murals in N.Y.C. and exploring the music of hip-hop duo OutKast. One entry evokes the experience of a young college student exploring the streets of a new city as he learns “what no one had told me was that I was the one who would be considered a threat.” Over the course of the collection, readers engage with the challenge of white rage, and learn about the painful links between Emmet Till’s open casket and the black bodies on today’s streets. The two concluding pieces provide a profoundly moving view of the future deeply affected by the past, through a husband’s letter to his expectant wife, followed by a mother’s message to her daughters. Ward’s remarkable achievement is the gift of freshly minted perspectives on a tale that may seem old and twice-told. Readers in search of conversations about race in America should start here. (Aug.)