Updated: Jan 30, 2020
AUTHOR: Morgan Jerkins
PUBLISHER: Harper Perennial
PUBLISHED DATE: January 30, 2018 ISBN: 9780062799395
Welp...I now know more about Morgan Jerkin's vagina than I do my own...
This was a brave exploration into this young black woman's complexities and contradictions within herself. Marketed to speak for millennial black women, I think it may speak to some, but largely is exclusionary. This book will serve as my reference point for how implicit bias and anti-blackness manifests itself in intellectual black folks of privilege.
Jerkins does raise issues that are critical in every other book about race that brunch and ivy blacks write about...hair, grappling with not fitting in with non-assimilating black people but not feeling good enough to feel fully included with upper class white people, and the continual sifting of oneself under the ever oppressive gaze of whiteness. She brilliantly articulates her strong desire in her youth to be a blonde cheerleader, being bullied by unapologetic black girls for being "smart" and wearing argyle socks, and draws anecdotes from history to explain how black women are seen as beasts in society. She explores her virginal desires for sex with black men, while fearing them live on the streets. Jerkins writes with great nuance about her strong desire to be white and her resentment of not being able to fully occupy the supremacy of whiteness.
Jerkin writes with extreme bravery...detailing her issues with her labia, subsequent labiaplasty, and provides a brief history of labia stretching in Africa.....
For so many instances in the book, I just cringed in pain for her.... For her, black Barbies and dolls don't have value because white girls don't play with black Barbies and dolls.... For her, whiteness and normal are fluid and interchangeable...For her blonde white women are so fetishized, she can only get off when watching them gang banged in porn.....yes y'all she went there!
I have been reading young adult novels by black authors for the better part of 2017 that allude to success, intelligence, safety and beauty being rigidly white, and encourages black protagonists to pursue white friends and intellectual spaces while depicting black people and communities as negative and to be avoided at all costs. This book doesn't use allegory or symbolism...it just puts it right out there. This is how a lot of black people who are striving for success feel, and we need to talk about it. We need to talk about how this affects...and has affected...the black community.
There were parts of her book that I loved. I loved how she analyzed the book controversy surrounding A Birthday Cake for George. She offers a counter observation to many of the critics who ultimately had the book pulled from shelves. Jerkins asks...is it too implausable to believe that the slaves smiled or laughed? Her defense of an intellectual...(forgive my memory, I listened to the audio, and my hands weren't free to take notes) who wrote a criticism of the popular hashtag #BlackGirlMagic, who then later revealed herself to be struggling with multiple sclerosis. Jerkins admits to being initially critical of the intellectual's stance, but after sitting with it has seen some merits in the rejected argument. Is #BIackGirlMagic exclusionary and does it support beliefs that as black women we have to be the best of the best in order to be valid?
See what I mean? Brave.
My emotions are mixed regarding her letter to Michelle Obama. She focused heavily on racist depictions of the first lady and how Obama has been viewed by racists within white America. Honestly, I think Michelle Obama chose to live her best life while in the White House. Her focus was more on how we, as black women, saw her. She chose to give more value to how we saw her, and that's what made all the difference.
All in all, I thought this was a very necessary book. We need to keep having these conversations until we can finally stop centering how we as black people are viewed by white people. What a horrific way to live one's life...constantly worried about how another race views you.... Imagine how empowering it must be to open a book by such an intelligent, beautiful, brilliant young woman with the world at her feet dreaming only of being white. ...just really sad, and profoundly deep.
Recommendation: I respect that she told her truth and I am certain there are a lot of young people who can relate to this. All of your favs love this book!
Audience: Millennials and up