The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race

Scribner. Aug. 2016. 240p. ISBN 9781501126345. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781501126369. SOC SCI
Using James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time as inspiration, this collection by National Book Award winner Ward (English, Tulane Univ.; Salvage the Bones) explores what it means to be black in America, past and present. A stellar cast of writers and poets ruminate on contemporary events such as the racially motivated church shooting in Charleston, SC, in 2015. Especially enlightening is the excerpt from Carol Anderson's White Rage, noting white backlash to Brown v. Board of Education. Novelist Edwidge Danticat parallels black mourning today to the events of the 1999 Amadou Diallo case, wondering how to explain injustice to her children. Poet Claudia Rankine describes the anxiety that mothers of black sons face, while cultural critic Garnette Cadogan relays the danger of walking as a black man (no hoodies or standing on street corners). Writer Kiese Layman mesmerizes with a reflection of hip hop duo Outkast, and Mitchell S. Jackson eloquently narrates the father figures in his life. Many black families will relate as Ward laments the difficulties of constructing a family tree or Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah's experience as the sole employee of color.
VERDICT This relevant anthology illuminates the fears, hopes, and joys of blackness and will spark interest in the contributors' previous works. [See Prepub Alert, 2/8/16.]
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