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September 21, 2020


#Essays The Fire This Time

by N@ncy



Introduction: Jesmyn Ward

  1. Ms Ward tells us James Baldwin inspired her as a wise father.
  2. His essay Fire Next Time is the basis of the title of this book.
  3. Baldwin was the widest read African American writer of his time.
  4. Baldwin’s  essay The Fire Next Time sold more than a million copies in 1963.
  5. The staying power of this essay, even after 57 years
  6. ….is his writing style.
  7. He personalized the large conflicts which made it a fascinating read.
  8. Not preachy…but straight from the heart!
  9. If you haven’t read this essay, please do.
  10. ….I’m sure you will not forget it.


Kima Jones (1982)

  1. Homegoing, AD  (poem, prose)
  2. Title is taken from an old African-American belief that
  3. death allowed an enslaved person’s spirit to travel back to Africa.
  4. I loved the humorous observation  that
  5. …indicates
  6. “Here’s the down south story we didn’t tell you…”
  7. “When did everybody stop eating pork
  8. “…when all women become Nefertiti bangles and headwraps
  9. …and all us named like Muslims.”


Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah (1982)

  1. Essay The Weight  is  about James Baldwin.
  2. Ghansah writes of her decision to visit James Baldwin’s
  3. …former home in the south of France.
  4. She is one of the most brilliant essayists writing in America today.
  5. Take the time to READ her Pulitzer Prize winning essay for feature writing:
  6. The Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof


Wendy S. Walters (??)

  1. Lonely in America (essay)
  2. Ms Walters remarks on how little she considers the reality of slavery.
  3. Her avoidance, in fact, comes from denial of slavery’s ugly truths
  4. …and its existence throughout America,
  5. Ms Walters ends the essay with her investigation of an African
  6. burial ground recently found in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
  7. There is a sharp sting in her words….


Isabel Wilkerson (1961)

  1. Where Do We Go From Here?
  2. This is a very short piece of prose…not even an essay.
  3. Wilkerson describes the “continuing feedback loop”
  4. ….that sees progress for civil rights, followed by
  5. …a great downtrend, and repetition of these trends.
  6. It feels like no matter where African Americans live….
  7. geography could not save them.


Honorée Fanonne Jeffers  (1967)

  1. The Dear Pledges of Our Love: A Defense of Phillis Wheatley’s Husband
  2. This essay describes Ms Jeffers research.


Daniel José Older

  1. This Far: Notes on Love and Revolution  (letter form)
  2. …this is Older’s letter to his wife (Natassian) and future child.
  3. Natassian wants Older to explain to their unborn children why he writes


Natasha Trethewey 

  1. Theories of Time and Space 
  2. The speaker begins with the expression, “You can get there from here”
  3. but warns that the journey will always take the reader to unfamiliar places.
  4. This idiom is  used by persons being asked for directions
  5. …to a location that cannot  be accessed without complicated directions.


Edwidge Danticat

  1. Message to my Daughters
  2. Edwidge Danticat’s essay begins with her trip to Haiti.
  3. Danticat and her friends survey the dusty refugee camps.
  4. She reconsiders this idea of refugee
  5. in light of a housing project in her Brooklyn neighborhood.
  6. That residence and  the school she attended,
  7. operated like a refugee camp by treating people as temporary.


Garnette Cadogan

  1. Black and Blue
  2. This was so interesting!
  3. As a preteen, Cadogan  developed his after-dark walking habit
  4. and sometimes stayed out until sunrise, to his mother’s dismay.
  5. He describes walks in his hometown of Kingston, Jamaica
  6. …his college town on New Orleans.


Emily Roboteau

  1. Know Your Rights –  essay on urban murals
  2. After the Charleston shooting in 2015 Ms Roboteau
  3. ...takes her children to see the recently reopened
  4. …High Bridge in New York City.
  5. The bridge connects the Bronx with Harlem
  6. …and was closed for over forty years.
  7. She tell her kids to notice and enjoy the
  8. ….world around them when they leave home.


Kiese Laymon

  1. Da art of Storytellin
  2. Laymon has one of the best ‘hooks’ in all these essays:
  3. Kiese Laymon’s essay begins by describing Catherine, his grandmother,
  4. enacting her morning routine before
  5. …working as a “buttonhole slicer at a chicken plant”.
  6. Laymon wants to find his ‘voice’ in his writing.


Mitchell S. Jackson

  1. Composite Pops
  2. This hits the reader ‘right between the eyes’.
  3. Jackson’s essay begins by asking how boys without fathers
  4. …spell the word father.


Clint Smith (1988)

  1. Queries of Unrest
  2. Picture this…I’m walking in the morning sun
  3. …taking photos and minding my own business.
  4. When this one sentence stopped me in my tracks:
  5. “Maybe that’s because when I was a kid
  6. a white boy told me I was marginalized
  7. and all I could think of was the edge of a sheet of paper
  8. …how empty it is –“
  9. Wow, what an observation…what a gut punch.
  10. I immediately looked up ‘Clint Smith’ and
  11. I had book credits to burn.
  12. His collection of poems “Counting Descent” is just 1 hr 2 min.
  13. But once I heard his voice….so intense.
  14. I knew I had to have this book and take Clint with me on my walks.


Kevin Young

  1. Blacker Than Thou about Rachel Dolezal‘s blackface.
  2. …this is a hilarious essay



  1. This book is an excellent introduction to so many
  2. young African American writers 
  3. writing themselves into the world and
  4. into the future and being committed to a future.


  1. Ms Ward explains why she edited this book.
  2. Highlights a few of the selections and
  3. ….hopes with her book
  4. “…a reader might see those like me anew.”
  5. Ms Ward:
  6. “All these essays give me hope. I believe there is power in words. .
  7. Maybe someone who didn’t perceive
  8. ….us as human will think differently after reading this book.”


Last Thoughts:

  1. I listened to the audio book
  2. but felt I was missing so much
  3. …of these excellent essays.
  4. I ordered the Kindle book….and that is the best way
  5. ….to savour these  talented writers.
  6. #MustRead….you won’t regret it!


Read more from essays, poetry
6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 21 2020

    This sounds fantastic! Jesmyn Ward’s book is on my list too.


  2. Sep 24 2020

    So glad you found these essays enlightening too, but how very sad about Jesmyn’s husband! Thank you for sharing her recent article.


    • Sep 26 2020

      So many talented authors yet to read…..glad I discovered your review!

      Liked by 1 person


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  1. #NonFicNov 2020 Week 1 | NancyElin
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