A New Generation of Black Writers
Reading Morgan Jerkins’s, This Will Be My Undoing, I became undone, pleasantly unraveled. Morgan's debut collection of essays tackles the intersections of girlhood, womanhood, blackness, and feminism. She interlaces her personal experience with a prosaic style that moved me to stop and pen poetry. So in touch with the sheer joy of my black woman-ness, my words felt like someone else’s. Unearthed a person I barely recognized. I will not soon forget the urgency of rising to write and the lovely immediacy of falling back into Morgan's story.
Morgan captivated, informed, inspired, encouraged, and educated me. All that I hope to find while spending time in a memoir I found in this work. Her words resonated with my blackness, the way of my femaleness, and reminded me that writers are called to leave it all on the page. More importantly, her writing exemplifies the literary brilliance of a new generation of Black artists. This is not a critique. I will hold that for another place and space. It is a testimony to what this new generation of wordsmiths is offering up and out into a literary landscape in desperate need of their voices.
What I admire most about Generation X and Millennial writers of color is how realness and rawness unapologetically informs their work. As a writer, there are times I wish I'd been born along side them. Then I remember that God doesn’t create mistakes. I’m a baby boomer. When I consider these writers from the perspective of my generation I have a unique view into a window of literary brilliance that calls us to shake off our timidity, understand the creative edge of vulnerability, and write—especially when we are hurt and afraid.
I am poised to continue gleaning from the wealth of knowledge and the uncommon courage and authenticity of these awe-inspiring young’uns. They have become so very dear to my heart. Their voices are at once innovative and compelling. They are building a colorful literary legacy. I so appreciate that racial, social and political intimidation cannot still these important voices called to write in such a time as this.
Jesmyn Ward ‘s The Fire This Time gathers several of these groundbreaking writers into one place. Within her pages their voices echo the sounds and sentiments of race and rage, gender and genealogy, politics, privilege, and pain. These young writers have indeed sprung from rich belletristic soil. Their work is a fulfillment of James Baldwin’s admonishment. “The responsibility of the writer is to excavate the experiences of the people who produced him [or her].” My italics. I believe Baldwin would be proud to know this new generation of writers. They are unabashedly laying literary ground for those writers of color who will one day be responsible for “excavating” them.
This week I want to shine a well-deserved spotlight on a few of this new generation of important writers that I have had the good fortune of reading—of experiencing. This is a short list of the myriad of new Black writers that have taken their place and their stand in America’s most recent literary landscape. Their voices are as clear as they are pure. This generation of writers is further proof of “The Necessity of Black Literature.”
- Chimmanda Ngozi-Adichie — Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah
- Ta Nehisi Coates—Between The World And Me, The Beautiful Struggle
- Teju Cole—Known and Strange Things, Every Day Is For The Thief
- Roxane Gay—Hunger, Difficult Women
- Jesse Holland—The Invisibles, Black Panther
- Morgan Jerkins—This Will Be My Undoing
- Kiese Laymon— How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others In America
- Jesmyn Ward—The Men We Reaped, Salvage The Bones
- D. Watkins—The Beast Side, The Cook Up