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

by Morgan Jerkins

Paperback, 2018



Call number

E185 .J47


Harper Perennial (2018), 272 pages


In her collection of linked essays, Jerkins takes on perhaps one of the most provocative contemporary topics: What does it mean to "be"-- to live as, to exist as-- a black woman today? Doubly disenfranchised by race and gender, often deprived of a place within the mostly white mainstream feminist movement, black women are objectified, silenced, and marginalized with devastating consequences, in ways both obvious and subtle, that are rarely acknowledged in our country's larger discussion about inequality. Jerkins exposes the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression that influences the black community as well as the white, male-dominated world at large.

Media reviews

(starred review) " Her writing is personal, inviting, and fearless as she explores the racism and sexism black women face in America"

User reviews

LibraryThing member lisapeet
This collection juggles a lot of contrasting thought about blackness, womanhood, and privilege, and for the most part I think she managed it well. Jerkins is smart and articulate, and certainly I can learn a lot from what she has to say. Her youth works both for and against her—against because as I mentioned earlier sometimes it feels like all her triggers are on the surface of her writing, which doesn't always serve her as an essayist with a point to develop. But on the other hand, her enthusiasm and earnestness are totally in her favor, and keep her thoughts fresh and far away from any kind of polemics. I wonder if the essays are presented in any kind of chronological writing order, or if it was just well edited as a collection, because her thought and expression do progress throughout to a really triumphant note... that's probably my secret shameful love of the fist-pump ending showing, but whatever—it worked. I'm so interested to talk about this in my book club next month, both because it was my pick and because I think it's a great group of people to get into this collection with—diverse ages and races, all feminist (that's loosely the book club theme), all very outspoken.… (more)
LibraryThing member Well-ReadNeck
Expecting to pick up Morgan Jerkins' essay collection, This Will Be My Undoing, and read an essay here and there, I left many things undone and read the entire collection in a single sitting. Jerkins' voice is a strong and clear one. She writes both to say her piece, but, in writing, the reader follows along as she works things out on paper. I especially enjoy how an essay topic leads to asides (usually memories that affect the topic at hand) that circle seamlessly back to the beginning, tying everything together, sometimes in unexpected ways.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!!
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LibraryThing member SiriJR
Morgan Jerkins' debut book of essays is tremendous. She is so skilled at interweaving personal stories within a larger cultural context. She has also done a beautiful job of creating a flow of continuous threads throughout the essays that result in more than simply a great collection, but an internally coherent and well-structured book. She has a strong voice and I feel very lucky to have been able to learn from her.… (more)
LibraryThing member mel.davidoff
An incredible collection of essays. Highly recommend this for fans of Roxane Gay. Jerkins does an amazing job of weaving together memoir with cultural and societal history to produce compelling essays on race, gender, feminism, and sexuality.
LibraryThing member LissaJ
I found this collection of essays eye opening and important in understanding the black woman experience. She writes about her teenage years and trying to fit herself into white expectations and the racism involved in the way her body was (is) perceived. She writes about Michelle Obama, Beyonce and her personal experience living abroad. I liked every one of these essays and feel a little more aware after reading them. I received this book from a LibraryThing Early Reviewers giveaway.… (more)
LibraryThing member mootzymom
Raw and intentional with each word. Discerning her journey and oppression she faces....
LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
This is likely the best memoir/exploration of intersectionality that I have encountered. Well-written and fiercely articulated, the author delves into her experience of race, sex and feminism as a black woman. She crafts a good criticism of mainstream feminism (it's more than a little white) and provides a gut-wrenching view of what it's like to grow up as a black woman in America. This is definitely a book more people need to read and it particularly speaks to the era we are currently experiencing as a nation.… (more)
LibraryThing member froxgirl
Whew - hang on, this is an INTENSE exploration of a woman's most intimate secrets and her most public persona. I have so many sticky notes in this book that it looks like a porcupine. Here are the chapters with a brief description of each:

1. Monkeys like you - Morgan, raised in a white middle class community, tries out for cheerleading and is not chosen. She becomes more aware of the differences in how black girls and white girls are perceived.

2. How to be docile - 22 reminders of how black women are commanded to live up to white eyes/expectations

3. The stranger at the carnival - all about her acceptance of, and finally joy in, her hair and body

4. A hunger for men's eyes - catcalling and porn viewing

5. A lotus for Michelle - a loving appreciation of Michelle Obama

6. Black Girl Magic - considering cultural appropriation, and bell hooks vs Beyoncé

7. Human, not black - Morgan's travels in Russia and Japan (she studied both languages at Princeton)

8. Who will write us? My favorite chapter, about what happens when white women write and make films about black women

9. How to survive: a manifesto on paranoia and peace - self-explanatory and I just have to add this one quote: "When a non-black person is complimenting you on your eloquence and presentability only because you adhere to the norm, this is not a compliment at all but a salute to white supremacy. You passed THEIR test, not your own."

10. A black girl like me - what black women owe each other

This is a must-read for white women who consider themselves "allies". Women of color will nod along, and there's plenty of learning from Morgan Jenkins to go around. I simply have no idea what men would do with this book. It's not for them.
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LibraryThing member Chris.Bulin
For the most part this was really well done. I especially loved the chapter for Michelle Obama. Other chapters though, the overall impact seemed really young. Not quite juvenile but not really mature either. I can't wait to see how she does as she continues her journey.
LibraryThing member RachelRamirez
Memoirs and essays are my absolute favorite genre, and this collection was no letdown. As a white woman in the current climate, I've made a commitment to seek to read, see, and listen more to works produced by people of color, especially women of color, to hear their stories and experiences. Funny, truthful, uncomfortable, and enlightening all at once, Morgan Jerkins has unapologetically shined a light onto her experiences with race, gender, and its ideology in present-day America.… (more)
LibraryThing member brakketh
Great and powerful writing about being a black woman in America.
LibraryThing member mermaidatheart
An easy read, which is kind of surprising when you consider the content. She easily could have clubbed you over the head with truth, but her wit and humor do a much better job of hitting home. It does exactly what a good memoir should -- open you up to a new perspective.
LibraryThing member reconditereader
I received an ARC of this book free through the LTER program.

This book is a magnificently-written scream of rage and fury. It's honest and sometimes funny and I read it in one sitting. Everyone should read this book; I hope it becomes super-successful. It lays out Jerkins's doubts and inconsistencies along with a sure and unwavering uplift for other Black women.

Jerkins ties together the personal with the systemic, the historical with the extremely current moment. It's so quotable that I stopped even trying to keep track of all the sentences I wanted to quote in this review. If you need a gift for a young person of any race or gender (especially a young Black woman) going out into the world this spring or summer, please give this book.
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Physical description

272 p.; 5.31 inches


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