Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots

Harper. Aug. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9780062873040. $27.99. SOC SCI
A descendant of black Southerners who moved north during the Great Migration, Jerkins (This Will Be My Undoing) takes readers with her on a journey to uncover her family’s forgotten, and sometimes suppressed, past. Jerkins travels cross-country visiting areas with which her family has ties and follows-up new leads as they develop. She vividly describes the effects of systemic racism on traditionally majority-black communities, such as limited or nonexistent public services and public safety oversight, and the entrenched white supremacy that shuts doors in the faces of those trying to uplift their communities. Jerkins is at her best when reflecting on her preconceptions and the process of learning uncomfortable truths, such as the existence of black slaveholders. Unfortunately, she relies on questionable sources for some of her more extreme examples of anti-black racism and at times draws conclusions that are unwarranted by the available evidence. These drawbacks lower her credibility overall.
VERDICT Recommend to readers seeking spiritually-informed black narratives or oral histories and fans of Jerkins’s first book; less useful for readers seeking factual histories of the Great Migration.

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