The Fire This Time
National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time.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 “postracial” 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.

The Fire This Time Details

TitleThe Fire This Time
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 2nd, 2016
PublisherScribner
ISBN-139781501126345
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Writing, Essays, Race, Poetry, Politics, Social Movements, Social Justice, Cultural, African American

The Fire This Time Review

  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    My full review, as well my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.Encompassing many subjects, styles, and tones, The Fire This Time aims to spark thoughtful conversation about the current state of race relations in America, as well as theorize what forms Black identity and anti-racist activism might take in an increasingly digitalized society. In spite of shared reference to recent social trends and tragedies, the essays in the collection consider a vast span of topics: the nation's My full review, as well my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.Encompassing many subjects, styles, and tones, The Fire This Time aims to spark thoughtful conversation about the current state of race relations in America, as well as theorize what forms Black identity and anti-racist activism might take in an increasingly digitalized society. In spite of shared reference to recent social trends and tragedies, the essays in the collection consider a vast span of topics: the nation's cultural amnesia over slavery, white rage, walking while Black, the ethics of public mourning, and more. The essays written by established writers tend to read as more multifaceted than those written by less experienced writers, understandably, but even the weaker essays in the collection still offer interesting perspectives. The collection as a whole seemed to me to get stronger as it went on; whether Emily Raboteau's discussion of NYC's Know Your Rights murals or Daniel José Olders's letter to his wife addressing the rise of a new kind of social movement, many of my favorite essays were clustered toward the end, but there were some brilliant essays early on, such as Jesmyn Ward's personal essay on ancestry and identity.
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  • Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars. TRUE STORY : I had so many articulated thoughts (I swear, humor me) to explain why I loved this collection of essays and why I thought it was very important to read it - of course if you're Afro-American but also if you are not. I'll forever advocate for books who make me feel uncomfortable because of my own privileged biases - even if I'm not American. I had all these articulated sentences ready to burst on the page, talking about how I will never truly know what it is to be black 4.5 stars. TRUE STORY : I had so many articulated thoughts (I swear, humor me) to explain why I loved this collection of essays and why I thought it was very important to read it - of course if you're Afro-American but also if you are not. I'll forever advocate for books who make me feel uncomfortable because of my own privileged biases - even if I'm not American. I had all these articulated sentences ready to burst on the page, talking about how I will never truly know what it is to be black in the US, no matter how many books I'll read, because all my knowledge will always be borrowed and never experienced. Then I would have stressed how vital it is to acquire this knowledge all the same. The "one-drop rule" would probably have led me to talk about my father, who was biracial (French-Algerian) and yet never really accepted it (even if it has nothing to do with it and I'm not saying it has). I tried, over the years, to understand why - was it because his father, who couldn't stay in France, abandoned him? Was it because of the racism he faced when growing up in a foster home? Or was it something different entirely? I'll never know. My father was a complicated man, but I loved him. His story will always keep its hidden parts, and I've made peace with it. I would have mentioned the crazy number of times my last name makes people stop, because it's kabyle and I'm that whiter than white, light-haired light-eyed package. How people would frown when hearing my name and then smile so big when seeing me. Or how they would create an entirely different origin for my name because that made them feel more confortable. I would have also explained why I never identified as POC because nobody identified me as such and because I simply didn't have the living experiences nor the culture (I still feel that way, but it only concerns ME. Everyone is the best judge to know how to identify). I grew up with the looks, the privileges, and the French/European culture of a white woman. I am white, and I would feel fucking dishonest if I said otherwise. How I always felt as if appearances were the most important thing in the world for racist people. Way more important than, I don't know, LIVES. Keeping your privileges and keeping the appareances, a racist novella, endlessly rewritten for hundreds of years.Would all that have been relevant? Ha, I'm not sure. Probably not. But it would have been clearly written. Then I got the flu and my mind is a mess. Can you tell? XD Remember to read it, though.For more of my reviews, please visit:
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    it is hard, if not I possible, for person born white to enter the skin of a person of color, to understand how they see things. No matter how sympathetic we are to their plight, no matter how regretful, we cannot see things the way they see them, experience things the way they do. These essays let me glimpse inside, showed me a little of how things have effected them, how the past has colored their future. The color divide is a wide one, I believe, though after all this time it should not be. it is hard, if not I possible, for person born white to enter the skin of a person of color, to understand how they see things. No matter how sympathetic we are to their plight, no matter how regretful, we cannot see things the way they see them, experience things the way they do. These essays let me glimpse inside, showed me a little of how things have effected them, how the past has colored their future. The color divide is a wide one, I believe, though after all this time it should not be. Not sure what the answers are, nor how to fix this. Powerful essays, maybe hit me a bit harder since I am reading A Lesson Before Dying, which is also a powerful book. Still I am grateful that these essays have further opened my eyes, furthered my understanding. ARC from publisher
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    The Fire This Time blew me away. It’s an odd experience to read a collection of essays that’s hard to put down – reading past my bedtime, early in the morning, and at my desk at lunch. Why? The incredibly timely subject is only part of it – the writing and the personal quality of the essays is what had me glued to this collection. Inspired by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, the editor has collected a series of personal essays and poems written by African Americans about race in the US today. The Fire This Time blew me away. It’s an odd experience to read a collection of essays that’s hard to put down – reading past my bedtime, early in the morning, and at my desk at lunch. Why? The incredibly timely subject is only part of it – the writing and the personal quality of the essays is what had me glued to this collection. Inspired by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, the editor has collected a series of personal essays and poems written by African Americans about race in the US today. The writers speak from personal experience, about the experience of parents and grandparents, about reactions to recent acts of police brutality and other ways in which racism remains pervasive, about the limited hope brought by Obama’s election, and about fear and hope for children and generations to come. So many of the essays were superbly written – many having a feel of spoken word poetry – expressing anger, frustration and fear, but somehow resonating with positive energy. These essays are ridiculously timely and should be read by anyone of any race in the US and elsewhere – but really, unfortunately, these essays have been timely for years... Not all essays were 5 stars, but most were. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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  • Trish
    January 1, 1970
    In the Introduction to this collection of essays by an impressive roster of writers known for thoughtful and articulate discussion of their experience with race in America, Jesmyn Ward explains that she wanted something more than newspaper accounts or editorials when faced with the events of the past eighteen months in the USA. Her own book on the death of five young men of her acquaintance, Men We Reaped, meant that hearing of and seeing via public media further deaths of black men by white men In the Introduction to this collection of essays by an impressive roster of writers known for thoughtful and articulate discussion of their experience with race in America, Jesmyn Ward explains that she wanted something more than newspaper accounts or editorials when faced with the events of the past eighteen months in the USA. Her own book on the death of five young men of her acquaintance, Men We Reaped, meant that hearing of and seeing via public media further deaths of black men by white men was traumatic enough to want to gather friends, neighbors, and most of all, those she admires for their clarity of voice, to ask “How do we deal with this?” “How do we think about this?” “How can we stop this?”This collection references James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time which is a work that addresses the future in a letter to Baldwin’s nephew, and the past and present in an essay about religion. Ward mentions that she intended to gather the commissioned essays in three parts - Past, Present, and Future—but found that most of the essays dealt with the past because the past explains the present and impacts the future. Unless the past is acknowledged and consciously dealt with in the present, the future will always be a question mark. The essays gave Ward hope because words matter. Words help us to cope. I agree with her.The names of the writers in this collection you will recognize, and if you don’t at first, you will in the future. One name I’d never seen before wrote my favorite essay in the collection, called “Black and Blue.” Garnette Cadogan quotes Fats Waller at the start"My skin is only my skin.What did I do, to be so black and blue?"Cadogan relates his experience as a Jamaican man in the United States—how he had to learn how to dress (cop-proof and IV league), how to speak, how not to run, or make sudden movements, or wait on the streets for friends…you get the picture. His personality and behaviors had to be twisted to fit the circumstances. In a sense, this happens to all of us, wherever we move, if we want to fit in, but not like that. Not like that. And he said something I’d never heard before when considering a black man’s experience:”I always felt safer being stopped in front of white witnesses than black witnesses.”Apparently the cops have greater regard for the concern and entreaties of white witnesses than they do for black witnesses. I recall the old chant “White Silence is Violence.” Cadogan also said that “my woman friends are those who best understand my plight,” due to the fact that women are often targeted on the street by men simply because of their sex. And he said that having to be hyperaware of one’s environment before speaking, moving, acting is what children do when they are learning, returning adult males (and females) to childhood status, even in cities where they live. My brain fizzes.Claudia Rankine, poet and author of Citizen, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in 2015, has an essay which begins "A friend recently told me that when she gave birth to her son, before naming him, before even nursing him, her first thought was, I have to get him out of this country."I totally see where that friend of Rankine’s is coming from, and have had that same thought while reading Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside. Black men in the United States do not have enough of a childhood and they can grow, if they live long enough, gnarly and twisted by society’s expectations. This can’t be right. I’d get my son out also.All the essays were ravishing and brought me something important, like Wendy Walters’ description of the slave graves discovered under a street intersection in Portsmouth, NH. My excitement quickened to see an essay by Mitchell S. Jackson, whose first novel The Residue Years was a finalist for the Hemingway/PEN Award, the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty-Duncan First Novel Prize, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. In his essay called “Composite Pops”, Jackson talks about male role models in a way that recalled to me Iceberg Slim. Slim was a con-man, a pimp, and a miscreant, but he had self-confidence, the push to succeed, wisdom, and love and he spread all of these around generously. I can think of a far worse father figure than he.You will recognize the names Natasha Trethewey, Poet Laureate, Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer winner in Journalism, Edwidge Danticat, Haitian novelist and MacArthur Fellow, all of whom have essays in this collection. But there will be names new to you in this remarkable collection which will open worlds you have not yet dreamed of. Once again we recognize that the work and thoughts—the words—of Jesmyn Ward bring us along, sometimes kicking and screaming in horror, to a new place of understanding. Many thanks.Thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster/Scribner for a chance to read the advance galley of this title which is due in bookstores August 2, 2016. Order it early and often.
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  • Rincey
    January 1, 1970
    Read this one slowly over the course of the month and man, it was good. Like any anthology, some essays are significantly stronger than others. But when those essays hit, they HIT.A lot of them are ones that have been expanded out into other books (White Rage by Carol Anderson, Blacker Than Thou by Kevin Young) or published elsewhere (Da Art of Storytellin' by Kiese Laymon) or ones that feel familiar if you regularly read the writer (The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning by Claudia Read this one slowly over the course of the month and man, it was good. Like any anthology, some essays are significantly stronger than others. But when those essays hit, they HIT.A lot of them are ones that have been expanded out into other books (White Rage by Carol Anderson, Blacker Than Thou by Kevin Young) or published elsewhere (Da Art of Storytellin' by Kiese Laymon) or ones that feel familiar if you regularly read the writer (The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning by Claudia Rankine). But this is a really strong collection and also a great way to sample these great writers.
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  • Monica
    January 1, 1970
    This is perhaps the best essay collection that I have read thus far. Not that I've read a significant number of essay collections; but it's becoming an appealing genre for me. I approached this book with one thought in mind: What do young people think about race? Do they get it? Of course the title to me implies young people 30ish or so. I recently read The Fire Next Time. It was tremendously affecting in that the mood and thoughts on race back then, were strikingly similar to where we stand This is perhaps the best essay collection that I have read thus far. Not that I've read a significant number of essay collections; but it's becoming an appealing genre for me. I approached this book with one thought in mind: What do young people think about race? Do they get it? Of course the title to me implies young people 30ish or so. I recently read The Fire Next Time. It was tremendously affecting in that the mood and thoughts on race back then, were strikingly similar to where we stand today. It didn't occur to me that I would be (am) part of the "new generation" that speaks about race here. Time and the way we view ourselves within its stream just messes with my head a little. So much of what James Baldwin wrote about is still going on. Conceptually it's hard to view the struggles of his time as that different from the struggles ongoing today. Is there really a generational difference with regards to race? I guess the views are expressed differently, but the foundations are so incredibly strong and familiar. This book really drove these points home with me. It's an eclectic collection that captures so much that is familiar and quirky and unique and youthful and classic. The essays are interspaced with poems and vignettes of African American life. It's just brilliant…The impetus for this book (in addition to a follow up to Baldwin) appears to be a cathartic reaction for the spate of killings of black people (many of them police-related) throughout the country over the past five years. Without a Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Michael Bell, Sandra Bland (the list is far too long and I have many more names); this collection never comes into being. This is a communal, intellectual processing of those events. A few brief thoughts about the essays in the collection: (view spoiler)[The Tradition - first poem to start the collection. Sort of a flow of life. Very brief and poignant.Introduction - Sets the scene. Ties Baldwin to the spark for the book which was the murder of Trayvon Martin and subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman signifying to the world the value of black lives in America (my words not Ward).Homegoing AD I loved this very brief story about an African American family in the South. The tale rings very familiar in my own life.The Weight - Essay about visiting Baldwin's home in France. The author weighs Baldwins struggles as a black man, a gay man and a man who was chosen to represent the voice of Negroes to the world at large and ponders how he shouldered that burden.Lonely in America - An odd piece in which the author (a journalist) talks about her non-racial middle class existence and about her own racial indifference. She saw an article about how some old graves from a slave graveyard had been moved. She set out to find what happened and how pursuing those answers reignited her awareness. Her journey sparked something in me as well. Where Do We Go from Here? Examines the police killings and gives some historical perspectives. This one was written by Isabel Wilkerson to lend some historic gravitas."The Dear Pledges of Our Love": A Defense of Phillis Wheatley's Husband! an essay that on outside examines the life of the AA poet Phillis Wheatley, but is really an examination of the idea that AA history is written through a cultural lens that unfairly characterizes black people in this example. In other words some assumptions were made that only make sense through that "white" lens. A reminder to us that history is written by the victors.White Rage - A very interesting essay that in a way portent the election that just passed. In particular White Rage points out that throughout American history, advances in civil rights have always been followed by what she calls White RageCracking the Code - Great essay about the inability to fully trace our ancestry. Discusses the use of genetic testing to discern our origins from slavery. Really interesting essay.Queries of Unrest - poem about the unexplained uneasiness in a young man's mind.Blacker Than Thou - this was an interesting take on the whole Rachel Dolezal event. It was essentially snapshots of the author's thoughts on the matter at various points in time and comparisons to pop culture images. A unique and interesting approach.Da Art of Storytellin' (a Prequel) essay about growing up in the deep south in the 90s. Laymon talks of being very poor but still understanding that he had value because of the love of his grandmother. He also talks of the dichotomy between the city and rural. He talks of how hip hop never spoke for the black youth in the south until Outkast. This essay outlines for me the generational differences in speaking to various folks. The hip hop nuance does nothing for me, but I can see how it might speak very clearly to others.The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning profound essay on what it is like to be the mother of an African American male in this country.Black and Blue is an interesting essay that juxtaposes the feelings of a young black man who walks. The juxtaposition is between 3 cities: Kingston, Jamaica where being a black man is common, New Orleans where it is a city in the South, and New York the city in the North. Some very stark differences and similarities. Again unique and profound points of view in this book. Know your Rights!- this was about street art as a means of communicating to citizens their rights under the constitution. These murals painted throughout NYC literally explain to people what to do and how to act when confronted by a policeman. Wow this was eye opening and brilliant. The lengths to which we as a society go to ensure that people are aware. These murals were commissioned after the numerous police killings of males of color throughout the US.Composite Pops - Powerful essay on the importance of fathers in a young man's life and how in their absence, sons take composites of male role models.Theories of Time and Space  - Excellent poem extolling that you can't go home again.This Far: Notes on Love and Revolution -  Letter to an incoming immigrant on the AA experience. This one is perhaps the most heart wrenching and affecting. It is written by a man who is not African-American who is bringing his Jamaican wife and their unborn child to America. He is trying to calm her fears about what their child can expect growing up here and at the same time calm his own fears.Message to My Daughters - Wow, an obtuse yet profound observation that African Americans could be considered refugees if what happened here was being reported from other countries. (hide spoiler)]Caveat: Because many of these essays speak of current events, I'm unsure of the longevity of this collection. But in this time and place, it's difficult to imagine how it could be better...I found this collection to be intelligent, emotional, affecting, poignant. In short, simply stunning!!5 Stars
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  • HBalikov
    January 1, 1970
    “A New Generation Speaks about Race” is the subtitle of this collection of essays, memoirs, poetry, etc. A number of my GR friends have reflected on the powerful nature of this material. I agree with many of their observations concerning the way, here in the USA, we have not been able to treat all as equal.There is little in this book that I can find to make me believe that things, in the near term, will be getting better. There seems little as a non-black that I can hope to change except this:I “A New Generation Speaks about Race” is the subtitle of this collection of essays, memoirs, poetry, etc. A number of my GR friends have reflected on the powerful nature of this material. I agree with many of their observations concerning the way, here in the USA, we have not been able to treat all as equal.There is little in this book that I can find to make me believe that things, in the near term, will be getting better. There seems little as a non-black that I can hope to change except this:I will listen (just listen) to anything anyone wants to share about their personal experiences and try to understand how their experience has affected their life.I will not offer any solutions that come from my experience because those will not be well received, even if well intentioned. (And, because they come from my experience they may not be as helpful as intended.)I will support all initiatives that offer a chance for open discussion and those that stand for equal justice. Your thoughts?AddendumA report this week on the impact of NYC's Children's Services taking children away from their mothers is a chilling example of inequality and raises the question of how often this is done in other parts of the USA. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/ny...
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  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    While I loved some of these essays, very many did not work for me all that much. I know I am not the target audience for this, so please do take my rating with a grain of salt. For one thing, I am not American and I do think that quite a bit of the cultural context will have flown over my head, for another thing, I am also not a person of colour. I can appreciate how important this collection of essays is without being blown away myself. I found the vast majority of these essays well-written While I loved some of these essays, very many did not work for me all that much. I know I am not the target audience for this, so please do take my rating with a grain of salt. For one thing, I am not American and I do think that quite a bit of the cultural context will have flown over my head, for another thing, I am also not a person of colour. I can appreciate how important this collection of essays is without being blown away myself. I found the vast majority of these essays well-written enough but not particularly brilliant.My favourite essays from this collection were Lonely in America by Wendy S. Walters and Black and Blue by Garnette Cadogan. These essays were just absolutely stunning and I will have to check out further work by the authors. I found the way Wendy S. Walters used her own research to illustrate her point really well done and wonderfully evocative. Garnette Cadogan juxtaposes his experience of walking in Kingston, Jamaica, with his experience of walking in New Orleans – and it bowled me over. If you only read one essay of this collection, make sure it’s this one.You can find this review and other thoughts on books on my blog.
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  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 StarsI’m very grateful for the opportunity to read this collection of essays, a topic that seems to be everywhere, in the news, as well as nonfiction and fiction books. The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward is timely as a topic, but it’s tragic that it needed to be written. Some of these essays are better than others, but all are worth reading. You’ll recognize the names of people you’ve read about, heard some of the details of their tragic stories. The details of areas where the high racial 4.5 StarsI’m very grateful for the opportunity to read this collection of essays, a topic that seems to be everywhere, in the news, as well as nonfiction and fiction books. The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward is timely as a topic, but it’s tragic that it needed to be written. Some of these essays are better than others, but all are worth reading. You’ll recognize the names of people you’ve read about, heard some of the details of their tragic stories. The details of areas where the high racial tension has made the news, where the body count keeps rising for crimes no greater than “Walking while black.” Most of these essays have a deeply personal essence about them, even when they are not always talking about themselves. It’s personal. It’s all personal. Some are stories told to them by other family members, parents, grandparents, events witnessed. Stories, not surprisingly, about police brutality. Inspired by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Ward has put together a thought-provoking group of essays. As in any group of writing by different authors, some of these are better than others, but all are more than worthy of your time. Contributors include: Carol Anderson, Jericho Brown, Garnette Cadogan, Edwide Danticat, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Mitchell S. Jackson, Honoree Jeffers, Kima Jones, Kiese Laymon, Daniel Jose Older, Emily Raboteau, Clint Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Wendy S. Walters, Isabel Wilkerson and Kevin Young. Pub Date: 2 August 2016Thank you to Scribner, NetGalley and to editor / author Jesmyn Ward for providing me with an advanced copy for reading and review.
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  • Brown Girl Reading
    January 1, 1970
    The Fire This Time. Police brutality and systemic racism are plaguing the United States as if we hadn't gone through the Civil Rights movement. I living in France, a country without worry or anxiety when I go out, don't have to face so much overt racism, nor too many microagressions, sit and listen to the countless horrific cases of police brutality ending in fatality. I am almost fifty years old and am proud to have seen a black president and hopefully a female one. However the hate crimes, The Fire This Time. Police brutality and systemic racism are plaguing the United States as if we hadn't gone through the Civil Rights movement. I living in France, a country without worry or anxiety when I go out, don't have to face so much overt racism, nor too many microagressions, sit and listen to the countless horrific cases of police brutality ending in fatality. I am almost fifty years old and am proud to have seen a black president and hopefully a female one. However the hate crimes, police brutality, and systemic racism I fear I won't see an end before my death. https://browngirlreading.com/2016/08/...
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  • Perry
    January 1, 1970
    "My only sin is my skin, ... What did I do, to be so black and blue?"Fats Waller, "(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue?""The title of this choric collection of prismatic prose and poetry convoking for equality, compassion and freedom from fear, written by some of today's prominent and talented African-American writers, derives from the title of James Baldwin's groundbreaking The Fire Next Time which he ended with the fiery memorable passage:"If we...the relatively conscious whites and the "My only sin is my skin, ... What did I do, to be so black and blue?"Fats Waller, "(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue?""The title of this choric collection of prismatic prose and poetry convoking for equality, compassion and freedom from fear, written by some of today's prominent and talented African-American writers, derives from the title of James Baldwin's groundbreaking The Fire Next Time which he ended with the fiery memorable passage:"If we...the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of others--do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by the slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!"I will never know the pain and fear and rage felt by African-Americans, including the artists who contributed pieces to this innovative anthology full of timely contributions to the current critical conversation on racial relations in the U.S. Nonetheless, if this book can be a bridge to better, fuller understanding by me (which, I think, it most definitely is) and others similarly situated, such a comprehension of the unknown being, after all, one of the main goals of artists and writers, then maybe it will help us all play some part in changing ourselves and perhaps the world for the common good.__________________________________"Be the change, you wish to see in the world." Mahatma Gandhi.“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Leo Tolstoy__________________________________Jesmyn Ward, the editor and an author of parts of this book, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2011 for her novel Salvage the Bones. She begins the book with her hope that:"this book makes each one of you, dear readers, feel as if we are sitting together, you and me and Baldwin and... all the serious, clear-sighted writers here--and that we are composing our story together. That we are writing an epic wherein black lives carry a worth, wherein black boys can walk to the store and buy candy without thinking they will die, wherein black girls can have a bad day and be mouthy without being physically assaulted by a police officer, wherein cops see twelve-year-old black boys playing with fake guns as silly kids and not homicidal maniacs, wherein black women can stop to ask for directions without being shot in the face by paranoid white homeowners.I burn, and I hope." Ms. Ward grew up about an hour from me. She wrote an affecting essay entitled "Cracking the Code," which really made me think about many of us in the United States who don't really know their full ancestry, including me, how this country is truly a melting pot, as it reminded me of how ridiculous and hateful it is that some people still judge others by the color of their skin. In it, she discusses a relatively inexpensive genetic testing company called 23andMe, that she and some other family members used not long ago to find out their ancestry. She grew up as "black" but her dad looked as much Native American as black, and she has relatively light skin for an African-American. Anyway, she talks about how she felt upon finding out that's she's more European than sub-Saharan African; specifically, 40% European-mix of British, Irish, French, German, Scandinavian, Iberian, Italian, and Ashkenazi-- 32% sub-Saharan African, a quarter Native American and less than 1% North African. Another essay I found particularly thought-provoking, in a book full of poignant essays and verse, was one called "Blacker Than Thou," by Kevin Young, considering the question of Rachel Dolezal:"It would be one thing...if in her house, to her pillow or family, Dolezal said she felt black... It’s when that somehow translates to what she does, when she teaches black studies as if she’s a black person—not a teacher, but a mind reader—that it becomes a problem. She wears the mask not to hide but to gain authority over the very thing she claims to want to be. How very white of her!"This anthology has improved my understanding on matters of race and thus effected a change in me. I highly recommend it for anyone seeking to gain different perspectives on race and racial relations in our current political climate."Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” MLK, Jr.
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  • Taryn
    January 1, 1970
    I read The Fire This Time with great urgency. The murders this week of two more innocent black men at the hands of cops, followed by the sniper attacks on Dallas police officers, are a kind of nightmarish call and response that demand reflection and action.It's hard to know what to do when the problems in our country seem so huge and insurmountable. I want so badly not to be part of the problem. I want to quit agonizing over my privilege and do something that matters. But what can one person do I read The Fire This Time with great urgency. The murders this week of two more innocent black men at the hands of cops, followed by the sniper attacks on Dallas police officers, are a kind of nightmarish call and response that demand reflection and action.It's hard to know what to do when the problems in our country seem so huge and insurmountable. I want so badly not to be part of the problem. I want to quit agonizing over my privilege and do something that matters. But what can one person do to dismantle such an enormous, seemingly immortal machine of systemic racism and oppression?Obviously, I don't have the answer, if there even is one. But one thing I keep coming back to is art. Most of my greatest insights on difficult subjects have come from music, poetry, essays. In the wake of each new tragedy, artists create. Their creations dredge beauty from destruction. Their generative force counters evil and death not by forging against it but by taking root in and growing out of it. How is that even possible? I don't know how, but I know that it is so.So, I read. I listen. I try to understand. I try to imagine what life is for other people. Books like The Fire This Time help me do those things. It's especially effective because it's an anthology, a collection of many voices. I learned a lot from it, and it made me hungry to learn more.If you only read one book this year, it should be this one.With regards to Scribner and NetGalley for the advance copy. On sale August 2. Mark your calendar now. Put in your library request. Hit the pre-order button. Do whatever you have to do, just read this book.More book recommendations by me at www.readingwithhippos.com
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  • Ellie
    January 1, 1970
    I started this book today intending to read one or two essays. I found I couldn't put it down, even when the cumulative pain and rage expressed made me want to. Every essay is outstanding. I was particularly struck by Edwidge Danticat's description of Haitian refugees from the Dominican Republic and comparing it to African-American "refugees" in the United States. But also an essay that describes the perils of walking while black. Another that deals with the loneliness of being black in America. I started this book today intending to read one or two essays. I found I couldn't put it down, even when the cumulative pain and rage expressed made me want to. Every essay is outstanding. I was particularly struck by Edwidge Danticat's description of Haitian refugees from the Dominican Republic and comparing it to African-American "refugees" in the United States. But also an essay that describes the perils of walking while black. Another that deals with the loneliness of being black in America.Ward's introduction to this volume addresses the debt owed to James Baldwin whose The Fire Next Time is the inspiration for the title of this book. How to survive being black in America. The essays testify to the power of black culture and family relationships in the face of unremitting hostility.The essays are challenging even when not directly trying to be. To witness so much pain is difficult, especially if the reader is part of the problem. But they are compelling, so that despite my discomfort I was unable to step away.They are stories of hardship but also of survival, for strategies of living even when the larger society does not seem to want to, is actively killing your loved ones.Important reading. Because we all are a part of this situation. If you're a person of color, these essays can be a companion in your life. If you're white, you should just read them. As Ward writes in her introduction, maybe it will help you be a little more compassionate. And if you already are, these essays may just open you even more.
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  • Lata
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars to 5. I inhaled this collection of essays. This book was a response to a series of killings of African Americans over the last few years, and to the book The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.The collection contains essays and some poems. The writing styles of each piece are different, and though many of the works cover similar incidents, each author brings something a little different to the discussion. Once I started reading this collection, I could not stop. I found the essays were 4.5 stars to 5. I inhaled this collection of essays. This book was a response to a series of killings of African Americans over the last few years, and to the book The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.The collection contains essays and some poems. The writing styles of each piece are different, and though many of the works cover similar incidents, each author brings something a little different to the discussion. Once I started reading this collection, I could not stop. I found the essays were powerful and emotional, and I was often left with a sense of fear and sadness as I read of the authors' experiences. Read this book.
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  • Trudie
    January 1, 1970
    I have been reading plenty of great fiction about issues of race inequality - Homegoing, The Underground Railroad, Sing, Unburied Sing, and A Kind of Freedon . Fiction is such an great portal into worlds and minds far removed from my own experience. I have learnt so much from each of these novels. But even so, some nuances will always be lacking when you don't hail from the American South or in my case America at all and it is then that I turn to non-fiction to fill in some much needed I have been reading plenty of great fiction about issues of race inequality - Homegoing, The Underground Railroad, Sing, Unburied Sing, and A Kind of Freedon . Fiction is such an great portal into worlds and minds far removed from my own experience. I have learnt so much from each of these novels. But even so, some nuances will always be lacking when you don't hail from the American South or in my case America at all and it is then that I turn to non-fiction to fill in some much needed historical and contemporary perspective. The Fire This Time is a perfect introduction to contemporary issues of race in America or at least it was for me. This slim but weighty anthology of essays filled in the gaps in my knowledge about life in America for a person of colour. I got something out of every single essay and poem.Details of the various cases of police brutality, come up often and are almost a constant strand through this entire book. The essay with the photos of murals taken in NYC boroughs extolling you to Know Your Rights! ! to avoid getting harassed by the police brought home how serious this problem is. It is hard for me to comprehend a citizenry comprising over 42 million people who need advice about how to protect themselves from their own police force in a country that is a democracy. Arguably one of the best essay's in the book, Black and Blue made the point that the author felt more free to walk at night in the crime-filled streets of Kingston, Jamaica, than as a black man in the streets of New York city. This is but one of several exceptionally well made points from contributors of varying backgrounds and writing styles. There are essays on Phillis Wheatley, on slave cemeteries (this one was quite disturbing), on the strange tale of Rachel Dolezal. Almost all pay some kind of tribute to James Baldwin. It is such a wide-ranging collection with many exceptional pieces of writing. (As a side note, I was reading this at the same time as the 2018 Pulitzer prizes for journalism were awarded and Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah a contributor to this collection won a Pulitzer for Feature writing with this article on the murder, of parishioners in Charlestown, an atrocity that crops up over and over again in this book. It makes a great companion read. )
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  • Book Riot Community
    January 1, 1970
    This anthology has a stellar list of contributors, including Edwidge Danticat, Kiese Laymon, Claudia Rankine, Isabel Wilkerson, and many more. It’s fabulous. The pieces are varied, ranging from essay to memoir to poetry. They are consistently moving and powerful, each capturing a different perspective on what it means to be Black in America today. Readers will come to this book for different reasons, but it remains essential reading for everyone who cares about the American experience, past, This anthology has a stellar list of contributors, including Edwidge Danticat, Kiese Laymon, Claudia Rankine, Isabel Wilkerson, and many more. It’s fabulous. The pieces are varied, ranging from essay to memoir to poetry. They are consistently moving and powerful, each capturing a different perspective on what it means to be Black in America today. Readers will come to this book for different reasons, but it remains essential reading for everyone who cares about the American experience, past, present, and future.— Rebecca Husseyfrom The Best Books We Read In July 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/08/01/riot-r...
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  • TheSkepticalReader
    January 1, 1970
    We scream equality and freedom while unabashedly modeling our actions on the fathers of genocide. The Fire This Time is a really good collection of essays on race, inequality, police brutality, and the stigmatization of Blacks. The title takes inspiration from Baldwin’s words, The Fire Next Time, and brings the old voices into today’s political context (which isn’t all that much different). Having never read The Fire Next Time, it is possible that I lost a deeper connection to this book in some We scream equality and freedom while unabashedly modeling our actions on the fathers of genocide. The Fire This Time is a really good collection of essays on race, inequality, police brutality, and the stigmatization of Blacks. The title takes inspiration from Baldwin’s words, The Fire Next Time, and brings the old voices into today’s political context (which isn’t all that much different). Having never read The Fire Next Time, it is possible that I lost a deeper connection to this book in some way but I do admire Baldwin and his works so I will be reading The Fire Next Time very soon.Not all essays were particularly strong to be honest, but I took a little away from even the least interesting one. Some of my favorites, including the introduction itself, were ‘“The Dear Pledges of Our Love”: A Defense of Phillis Wheatley’s Husband’ by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, ‘Blacker Than Thou’ by Kevin Young, ‘Black and Blue’ by Garnette Cadogan, and ‘The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning’ by Claudia Rankine. Most of these feature in the second half of the collection so I seemed to have grown to enjoy it more as I read on.Jeffers’ essay had an interesting point to share about how we’ve relied on the account of a white woman to tell the story of a Black man and it kinda shook me to realize how I myself have never questioned this ‘history.’ Wheatley’s poem, ‘On Being Brought from Africa to America’, was one of my favorite poems in school so one can imagine why this essay will resonate with me a long time. I was taught to be skeptical by slave narratives because of their sketchy publication process so it was a bit of shock that I never questioned this fairly stereotypical portrayal of Wheatley’s husband told by a white woman.Claudia Rankine’s touches on the matter of dead Black bodies equating to a ‘normal’ or an ‘average’ day in America, and most certainly for white Americans, which was a brutal but honest obversation. Garnette Cadogan makes a reflection, which I’ve heard multiple times before, about how being Black in America is distinctly different to being Black in Jamaica (and I’d argue anywhere else too). Kevin Young’s essay also brought up another delicate subject of ‘Blackness’. He writes, Every black person has something “not black” about them. I don’t mean something white, because despite our easy dichotomies, the opposite of black is not white. This one likes European classical music; that one likes a little bit of country (hopefully the old stuff); this one is the first African American principal ballerina; this one can’t dance. Black people know this—any solidarity with each other is about something shared, a secret joy, a song, not about some stereotypical qualities that may be reproducible, imitable, even marketable. This doesn’t mean there aren’t similarities across black people or communities or better yet memory—just that these aren’t exactly about bodies and not really about skin at all, but culture. He also talks a fair bit about Rachel Dolezal and since I mostly avoided that mess of garbage drama, I was very engrossed with his opinion of the entire situation. I have tabs and notes marked all over his essay and I can share quotes from it for a long time but I’ll leave the review with this last one I loved, Being black is not a feeling. I don’t always feel colored. Nor is it simply a state of mind.Blackness: a way of being.
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  • Jessica Sullivan
    January 1, 1970
    A book like this is more important now than ever. Amid the Black Lives Matter movement, the widespread national anthem protests and the recent election of a racist president, The Fire This Time digs deep into the legacy of racism in America and what it means to be black in the past, in the present and in the future.Curated by National Book Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward and dedicated to Trayvon Martin, it's an anthology divided into three parts: Legacy, Reckoning and Jubilee.Each writer is A book like this is more important now than ever. Amid the Black Lives Matter movement, the widespread national anthem protests and the recent election of a racist president, The Fire This Time digs deep into the legacy of racism in America and what it means to be black in the past, in the present and in the future.Curated by National Book Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward and dedicated to Trayvon Martin, it's an anthology divided into three parts: Legacy, Reckoning and Jubilee.Each writer is tasked with examining what Ward calls "the ugly truths that plague us in this country." The essays and poems contained within are deeply personal in nature, filled with sadness, reflection and hope.White people in America (myself included, of course), can never truly understand what it's like to endure unfathomable injustices based on the color of our skin. I believe that we have a responsibility to listen to black voices and become more empathetic and aware. The Fire This Time joins Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me as as an important work of non-fiction that can help us do that.
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  • Udeni
    January 1, 1970
    I finished this superb collection of essays and poems in a single sitting. The theme of all the essays is the personal experience of being black in today's America. The introduction itself, which tells the complicated story of how the editor resented, but then came to love James Baldwin. It is worth the price of the book alone. Some essays are straightforward political arguments. Others are surreal meditations, playing with language and meaning. The quality of writing and urgency of the message I finished this superb collection of essays and poems in a single sitting. The theme of all the essays is the personal experience of being black in today's America. The introduction itself, which tells the complicated story of how the editor resented, but then came to love James Baldwin. It is worth the price of the book alone. Some essays are straightforward political arguments. Others are surreal meditations, playing with language and meaning. The quality of writing and urgency of the message binds what could be a disparate selection into a coherent collection. Essential reading for anyone trying to make sense of today's America.
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  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    What the fuck is wrong with Trent Lott? Jesmyn Ward I have yet to shake that incident. What a repellent human being. This anthology is dauntless. And the intellect? Not sure which is more impressive that or the talent. Kevin Young ...I took a black shower and shaved a black shave, I walked a black walk and sat a black sit... is in top form. But then the same could be said for all of the contributors. Recommended.
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  • K.D. Winchester
    January 1, 1970
    Every piece in this collection changed my perspective on race in America. Each author gives you a glimpse of his or her unique experience as a person of color. Beautiful, poignant, and completely relevant to today's political turmoil, The Fire This Time is an excellent testament to what America has a achieved--and how far we still have to go.P.S. Jesmyn Ward <3
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  • BookOfCinz
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks Netgallery for the advanced copy of this book. First let me say, everyone should read this, especially if you are an American and if you love spectacular writing. The essays in this book were well thought out, personal, moving, raw and in more than one ways inspiring. Yes, the topic covered- Racism in America- is an ugly one and its been covered time and time again but these essays give a very fresh personal look at the subject. I personally loved "Black and Blue" by Garnette Cadogan Thanks Netgallery for the advanced copy of this book. First let me say, everyone should read this, especially if you are an American and if you love spectacular writing. The essays in this book were well thought out, personal, moving, raw and in more than one ways inspiring. Yes, the topic covered- Racism in America- is an ugly one and its been covered time and time again but these essays give a very fresh personal look at the subject. I personally loved "Black and Blue" by Garnette Cadogan mainly because he gave a more realistic view of the subject for me. Being a Jamaican and reading if his reference to Jamaica and his reality of how walking in one of the most dangerous ghettos in Jamaica is safer than walking while black in America, blew my mind. His piece really gave me a greater appreciation of what the black community is currently going through. This was a great reference point for me as a Caribbean national, specifically Jamaican. Thanks Cadogan. I honestly do think this is a must read. Please pick this one up.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    [4+] James Baldwin wrote to his nephew James "You were born in a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being." These are the anguished and angry and hopeful and determined words of his successors. All are excellent essays. My favorite was the eye-opening "Black and Blue" by Garnette Cadogan who writes about arriving in New Orleans as a college student from Jamaica and losing his ability to walk freely.
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  • Britany
    January 1, 1970
    I do enjoy an anthology and especially one with such a timely topic and one I can certainly learn from. Most of the essays comment on either Michael Brown or the Emanuel Church shooting in SC. The format is split into three sections appropriately titled: Legacy, Reckoning, and Jubilee. Throughout most of the book there are interspersed poems and letters and short prose segments. I can appreciate all the time and thought each of these authors put into this project. The power of perspective is a I do enjoy an anthology and especially one with such a timely topic and one I can certainly learn from. Most of the essays comment on either Michael Brown or the Emanuel Church shooting in SC. The format is split into three sections appropriately titled: Legacy, Reckoning, and Jubilee. Throughout most of the book there are interspersed poems and letters and short prose segments. I can appreciate all the time and thought each of these authors put into this project. The power of perspective is a heavy dose of reality for these lives. As I close the book and finish the final essay by Edwidge Danticat, it's a nice reminder that we all can do better. We can all do more to make our communities more inclusive to those that are always pushed out, those that suffer at the hands of vigilante justice, those parents that have to talk to their children about what to do when the police will stop them. This is the reality of life growing up in our America for those in our country that are constantly marginalized against. I will do better. I will educate myself and include other perspectives for my framework. I know it's not enough, but it's a start.I always struggle with essays or short stories. I struggle with not being able to connect with characters and with no linear plot line to move forward with. Unfortunately, this was not an exception for me. Some of the essays were more meaningful to me than others and overall, I enjoyed parsing through this anthology, but not sure how much I'll remember the individual essays in the future.
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  • Erika
    January 1, 1970
    To say that I enjoyed this book would be a lie. This is not a book that one enjoys reading, because the essays collected in this volume are not written for enjoyment. To say that this book changed my life would not be an exaggeration though. These essays, written in response to police brutality against black Americans, pushed me to my limits, made me feel emotions that I didn't know I could feel, and taught me so much--about what it is to be black in America, both historically and in present To say that I enjoyed this book would be a lie. This is not a book that one enjoys reading, because the essays collected in this volume are not written for enjoyment. To say that this book changed my life would not be an exaggeration though. These essays, written in response to police brutality against black Americans, pushed me to my limits, made me feel emotions that I didn't know I could feel, and taught me so much--about what it is to be black in America, both historically and in present day, about how systematic racism continues to be force that all people must fight against, and about my own reactions and assumptions about race.I have never considered myself racist. I always seek to read widely and experience a variety of voices and experiences in my reading as well as in my personal life and my life on social media. I am not close-minded, and I consider myself very empathetic. None of this, however, negates the fact that as a white, middle-class American, I was born into a position of privilege that informs how I view the world. I have always known this, but I do not think I truly understood it until I finished reading these essays. I am not someone who has ever believed that "racism is dead" or "we are all truly equal." I know that this is not true. Somehow though, this book took my privilege and took the crippling structures founded on systemic racism in this country and smacked me across the face in them. Not in a violent way, but in the way someone might slap a person who has fainted in order to wake them up. I do not know that I can put all of these feelings into words, I just know that this book moved me profoundly. Something inside me shifted as delusions I didn't even know I had were shattered. For that, I will be forever grateful.Overall, I have nothing bad to say about this book. Sure, there were essays I connected with more than others, but as a whole they all formed a coherent picture, which is rare and marvelous in a collection from a variety of authors.This is the kind of book that truly demonstrates why we need diverse books.I received a copy of this book for free from NetGalley in return for an honest review. The opinions in this review remain my own.
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  • Ifeyinwa
    January 1, 1970
    The first time I attempted reading this collection of essays on race in America, I did not get far. I'm very glad that I tried again. As with most anthologies, I found some pieces more compelling than others. Some essays were subtle, and slow-burning in their delivery, like Lonely in America by Wendy Walters. Whereas, others, like The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning by Claudia Rankine, were direct and on the nose. In all, a solid collection, in my opinion.
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  • SUSAN *Nevertheless,she persisted*
    January 1, 1970
    Insightful,sad,beautifully written book. Would highly recommend.
  • J Beckett
    January 1, 1970
    A must read for the conscious soul. Amazing essays by incredible and thought-proking writers. An unequivocal book for the generations.
  • Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    Splendid is a very apt word to describe this very timely collection of essays/poems that will sooth the soul, nourish the spirit and rouse the mind! Editor Jesmyn Ward competently gathered an illustrious group of contributors to continue the discussion/update/reflect on what James Baldwin so poignantly expressed in his 1963, “The Fire Next Time”. As I normally do with collections, I read only a story or two per day so I could savor and reflect on each contribution. As expected some of the Splendid is a very apt word to describe this very timely collection of essays/poems that will sooth the soul, nourish the spirit and rouse the mind! Editor Jesmyn Ward competently gathered an illustrious group of contributors to continue the discussion/update/reflect on what James Baldwin so poignantly expressed in his 1963, “The Fire Next Time”. As I normally do with collections, I read only a story or two per day so I could savor and reflect on each contribution. As expected some of the essays/poems resounded more with me than others and there is something here for everyone. I found all of the contributions to be wonderfully potent writings expressing genuine feelings with grace and sensitivity.As I smiled, sighed, shook my head, felt outrage, diligently took notes, and occasionally called someone to read aloud a statement I knew I would not only be highly recommending this book but seeking the works of the contributors that were new to me.This is a must read for everyone and should be considered for community-wide reads and book clubs.I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.#cillasbookmanics
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