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The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race

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The New York Times bestseller, these groundbreaking essays and poems about race—collected by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward and written by the most important voices of her generation—are “thoughtful, searing, and at times, hopeful. The Fire This Time is vivid proof that words are important, because of their power to both cleanse and to clarify” (USA TODAY).

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

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Scribner

Publication Date: 08-02-2016

Pages: 240

Product Dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

Jesmyn Ward received her MFA from the University of Michigan and has received the MacArthur Genius Grant, a Stegner Fellowship, a John and Renee Grisham Writers Residency, the Strauss Living Prize, and the 2022 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. She is the historic winner—first woman and first Black American—of two National Book Awards for Fiction for Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) and Salvage the Bones (2011). She is also the author of the novel Where the Line Bleeds and the memoir Men We Reaped, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize and the Media for a Just Society Award. She is currently a professor of creative writing at Tulane University and lives in Mississippi.

Table of Contents

"The Tradition" Jericho Brown 1

Introduction Jesmyn Ward 3

Part I Legacy

Homegoing, AD Kima Jones 15

The Weight Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah 19

Lonely in America Wendy S. Walters 33

Where Do We Go from Here? Isabel Wilkerson 59

"The Dear Pledges of Our Love": A Defense of Phillis Wheatley's Husband Honorée Fanonne Jeffers 63

White Rage Carol Anderson 83

Cracking the Code Jesmyn Ward 89

Part II Reckoning

Queries of Unrest Clint Smith 99

Blacker Than Thou Kevin Young 101

Da Art of Storytellin' (a Prequel) Kiese Laymon 117

Black and Blue Garnette Cadogan 129

The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning Claudia Rankine 145

Know Your Rights! Emily Raboteau 157

Composite Pops Mitchell S. Jackson 179

Part III Jubilee

Theories of Time and Space Natasha Trethewey 195

This Far: Notes on Love and Revolution Daniel José Older 197

Message to My Daughters Edwidge Danticat 205

Acknowledgments 217

Contributors 219

Permissions 225