cover image Magical Negro

Magical Negro

Morgan Parker. Tin House, $15.95 (104p) ISBN 978-1-947793-18-7

As witnessed in this third collection, blackness cannot be confined to a simple definition. Parker writes of the black experience not as an antidote or opposite to whiteness, but a culture and community where irreplicable nuances are created in spite of, not because of, pain and trauma. Blackness cannot be bought or sold; it’s an inheritance. For example, in “Magical Negro #607: Gladys Knight on the 200th Episode of The Jeffersons,” Parker writes, “When I’m rich I will still be Black./ You can’t take the girl out of the ghetto/ until she earns it, or grows up into it.” Similarly, in “The History of Black People,” Parker frames the legacy of black people as “an investigation” and “a tragicomic horror film” and “joy stinging pink lips.” Parker uses personal narratives to deconstruct societal stereotypes of black womanhood. In “When a Man I Love Jerks Off in My Bed next to Me and Falls Asleep,” she observes, “When I walk into the world and know/ I am a black girl, I understand/ I am a costume. I know the rules./ I like the pain because it makes me.” (Feb.)