This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins

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I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book. I had never heard of the author and while the subtitle was pretty clear, it also left a lot for me to wonder about. This book is one woman’s, Morgan Jerkins, insights on the intersection of Black female feminism in America.

Here is a little more about this book

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.

This collection of essays floats between specific moments from Jerkins life to historical, political, and cultural moments in the history of Black women in America. Jerkins takes us through her personal experiences and uses them to show us what they mean in the greater context of the life of Black women.

Where Jerkins shines most is with her openness about sharing the intimate details of her life. There were even moments where I felt embarrassed by how much she shares, it appears very little is off limits. Her courage when it comes to discussing the most private details of her life allows us to see Jerkins specifically, and black women in general, as more in depth and complex than they’re often presented in American culture.

Jerkins is sharing her personal observations and experiences, and they are unique to her. Like everyone else, her opinions are flawed and contradictory. I didn’t agree with sections of the book, but I did respect her writing and her thought processes. Jerkins harbors some resentment toward Black women, despite her writing this book as a champion of Blackness. Its contradictory and confusing, and ultimately something she is clearly grappling with throughout. Some of the threads in the essays, feel incomplete or in search of a point. The subject matter is complex and it feels as if Jerkins is still working through a lot of it throughout each essay. Some sections really land, and some fall short for me. This is her debut book and I’m excited for her following works.

For the most part I would suggest you read this book. Representation matters, and of course Black women are not a monolith, and that is made very clear in these essays.  Remember to take Jerkins’ work as what it is, one woman’s experience and a opinions on her life to this point. 

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We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Do not judge this small book by its size. It packs a major punch, it is emotional and visceral, and it is enjoyable to read. 

More about this book

The highly acclaimed, provocative New York Times bestseller—a personal, eloquently-argued essay, adapted from the much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah. Here she offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

Simple. Direct. Smart. This book is a taste of what it means to be a feminist. Adichie dips her toe into the most basic tenets of feminism, from equal treatment across the genders to calling out misogyny as it occurs in real time, as well as raising boys and girls to treat each other with mutual respect from a young age.

Adichie is conversational in tone (which makes sense since this comes from a TED talk.) and casual with her stories, yet biting as she articulates her observations of misogyny. The book doesn’t dive deep into any one thing, it doesn’t have time, its 48 pages. But it does cut to the point, women should be respected and should be treated as equal to men, and that both men and women are responsible for making the societal changes. Feminism isn’t only the responsibility of women.

Plus, excerpts of this talk/book are in Beyonce’s Flawless, therefore this book is perfect.

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Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong by Raymond Bonner

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This book belongs in the sub-genre of Black man convicted of a crime where there is minimal evidence, goes to death row, gets new lawyers and continues to fight for justice. This story has been told countless times, and that in and of itself is a searing indictment on the American prosecutorial system.

Here is more on this book

This is a lucid, page-turning account of the trials and death row appeals of Edward Lee Elmore, a quiet and mentally challenged African-American man accused of the brutal murder of an elderly white woman in South Carolina in 1982, and the remarkably dedicated legal team that fought for him to have fair representation in court after three separate, grossly mismanaged jury trials. Led by Diana Holt, a lawyer whose own turbulent youth contributed to a fierce commitment to her client, Elmore’s defense winds through nearly three decades of legal maneuverings as suspenseful as the investigation of the mysterious crime itself.

Bonner is skillful in crafting a well researched and thorough narrative to tell Elmore’s story. He won a Pulitzer for this book, so to say its well done is an understatement. Bonner’s style is journalistic, he is direct and presents the details without manipulation. This works well for this book. I want the story and the facts, you can leave the feelings for me to develop on my own.

The only place the book really misses, is that I knew where it was going. Bonner is very formulaic. There is no room for surprise. The book feels more like a train coming down the tracks at you. It keeps going and getting faster, but there is no finesse. It’s all impact. And there is a lot of impact to be had, the law enforcement involved are incompetent (at best) and Bonner relies on that to engage the audience. It leaves the reader enraged, but it doesn’t do much for narrative nuance. If you’re familiar with this genre, you’ll feel like you’ve read this book before, it just has new details.

If you’re new to the genre, it should be pretty captivating. It is also infuriating. That’s the point. Our system is broken and Anatomy of Injustice  is a reminder that there is work to be done.

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (January 8, 2013)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars
  • Buy Anatomy of Injustice on Amazon

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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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This book, has been with me since I read it a few weeks ago. I’ve been reflecting a lot about my thoughts and feelings while reading it. Before I dive in here’s a little more about the book.

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.

Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

This book felt like a modern day heartbreaking fairytale. Though the  characters exist in a place, New York City, they exist without time and context. There is no mention of real life events, like 9/11, that these characters would have experienced. The book relies on stock character types, but heightens them with emotional events and situations.

I was warned about this book, that it was going to make me cry. Which I brushed off cause  I like dark books. I like reading about struggle and loss and the human response to these things.  However this book is bleek. There is not a lot of redemption. I remember looking up about a halfway through the book and just thinking, “this book is the epitome of sadness for sadness’ sake”.

For me this became very challenging. Not because of the sadness, but, because I felt as a reader I was being manipulated. Of course I’m going to feel things if all I’m presented with is the darkest depths of human capability. The most unrelenting tragic events. Sorrow. Destruction. Brutality. It felt like I was being forced to be sad, because how can you not be after all that you’ve read? While reading and feeling (and crying), I could step outside myself and note that I my emotions were being taken advantage of.

The book gets away with this manipulation because it is so beautifully written. Yanagihara creates moments that are full of life and breath and are just beyond moving. To me, that is the greatness of this book. She narrates through different characters points of view which  works incredibly well.  A Little Life is certainly a book that will stay with me, and that is in no small part due to the world that Yanagihara created.

One thing worth noting, is that the revelation of the title of the book is fantastic. That’s all I’ll say.

I think this book is worth reading, if the 800+ pages don’t freak you out. If you’re uncomfortable or triggered by child, mental, physical, or sexual abuse this book may not be for you. It goes there, and it doesn’t let up.

  • Paperback: 814 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (January 26, 2016)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars
  • Buy A Little Life on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here