Review: This Will Be My Undoing – Morgan Jerkins

32326006Verdict: Important, readable, impressive, not always convincing.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Published by Harper.

Genre: Essay collection, political non-fiction, memoir

Find it on Goodreads.

From one of the fiercest critics writing today, Morgan Jerkins’ highly-anticipated collection of linked essays interweaves her incisive commentary on pop culture, feminism, black history, misogyny, and racism with her own experiences to confront the very real challenges of being a black woman today—perfect for fans of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists.

Morgan Jerkins is only in her twenties, but she has already established herself as an insightful, brutally honest writer who isn’t afraid of tackling tough, controversial subjects. In This Will Be My Undoing, she 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? This is a book about black women, but it’s necessary reading for all Americans.

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. In This Will Be My Undoing, Jerkins becomes both narrator and subject to expose 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.

I have slightly confused thoughts about this: I thought it was important, well-written, super interesting but at some points not always convincing. I listened to the audiobook read by the author and can only recommend this. You can tell how her confidence in her voice increases and how self-confident she reads her book in the end. I loved that.

I adore how Morgan Jerkins does not write for a white reader but rather other black women. As such it worked wonderfully as an insightful glimpse into a world that is in parts very different than mine (I love that in memoirs). She centers her own experience successfully in making her larger points and thus contructs highly personal essays that still work wonderfully as fully fledged academic essays.

I especially appreciated what she had to say about hair; black hair to be exact. I do love how she uses sources to underscore her points. The rigor of her essay construction works extremely well here.

I do not always agree with her on her analyses but that might be because my academic background is different than hers – and different disciplines always bring with them different ways of looking at the world. I do know that whatever she shall write next, I will be reading it, because I think it will be insightful and exciting. I cannot believe Morgan Jerkins is younger than me.

3 thoughts on “Review: This Will Be My Undoing – Morgan Jerkins

  1. I’ve seen a lot of promotion for this book, and while I want to read it, the comparison to Bad Feminist, which I thought was a hot mess, turns me off. Can you give an example of what you didn’t find convincing?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought she dealt with white women in a very generalizing way, which is fine in the context of the book (because it is very clearly not written for white women), but sometimes a bit jarring in her overall structure. I also thought her analyses could have used some other framing – as in economic theory, sociological theories of hegemony, and so on (but like I said, we come from different academic schools and as such this might only bother me). Which is why I thought her more personal pieces worked better.


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