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In light of recent tragedies and widespread protests across the nation, The Progressive magazine republished one of its most famous pieces: James Baldwin's 1962 "Letter to My Nephew," which was later published in his landmark book, The Fire Next Time. Addressing his fifteen-year-old namesake on the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin wrote: "You know and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon."
Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward knows that Baldwin's words ring as true as ever today. In response, she has gathered short essays, memoir, and a few essential poems to engage the question of race in the United States. And she has turned to some of her generation's most original thinkers and writers to give voice to their concerns.
The Fire This Time is divided into three parts that shine a light on the darkest corners of our history, wrestle with our current predicament, and envision a better future. Of the eighteen pieces, ten were written specifically for this volume.
In the fifty-odd years since Baldwin's essay was published, entire generations have dared everything and made significant progress. But the idea that we are living in the post-Civil Rights era, that we are a "post-racial" society is an inaccurate and harmful reflection of a truth the country must confront. Baldwin's "fire next time" is now upon us, and it needs to be talked about.
Contributors include Carol Anderson, Jericho Brown, Garnette Cadogan, Edwidge Danticat, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Mitchell S. Jackson, Honoree Jeffers, Kima Jones, Kiese Laymon, Daniel Jose Older, Emily Raboteau, Claudia Rankine, Clint Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Wendy S. Walters, Isabel Wilkerson, and Kevin Young.
- ISBN-13: 9781501126345
- ISBN-10: 1501126342
- Publisher: Scribner Book Company
- Publish Date: August 2016
- Page Count: 240
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-06-06
- Reviewer: Staff
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.)