Review | The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward (editor)

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TRUE STORY : I had so many articulated thoughts (I swear, humor me) to explain why I loved the collection of essays written in The Fire This Time and why I thought it was very important to read it – of course if you’re Afro-American but also if you are not. I’ll forever advocate for books who make me feel uncomfortable because of my own privileged biases – even if I’m not American.

I had all these articulated sentences ready to burst on the page, talking about how I will never truly know what it is to be black in the US, no matter how many books I’ll read, because all my knowledge will always be borrowed and never experienced. Then I would have stressed how vital it is to acquire this knowledge all the same. How vital it is to listen to what black people have to say, not only lately, but all the time.

The essays about the “one-drop rule” would probably have led me to talk about my father, who was biracial (French-Algerian) and yet never really accepted it (even if the situations are really different and I’m neither comparing them nor saying they’re the same, because they’re not). I tried, over the years, to understand why – was it because his father, who couldn’t stay in France, abandoned him? Was it because of the racism he faced when growing up in a foster home? Or was it something different entirely? I’ll never know. My father was a complicated man, but I loved him so much. His story will always keep its hidden parts, and I’ve made peace with it.

I would have mentioned the crazy number of times my last name makes people stop, because it’s Kabyle and I’m that whiter than white, light-haired light-eyed package. How people would frown when hearing my name and then smile so big when seeing me. Or how they would create an entirely different origin for my name because that made them feel more comfortable. They make me want to throw up. I would have also explained why I never identified as POC because nobody identified me as such and because I simply didn’t have the living experiences nor the culture (I still feel that way, but it only concerns ME. Everyone is the best judge to know how to identify). I grew up with the looks, the privileges, and the French/European culture of a white woman. Therefore given my experiences, for me, I am white, and I would feel fucking dishonest if I said otherwise. I would have explained how I always felt as if appearances were the most important thing in the world for racist people. Way more important than, I don’t know, LIVES.

Keeping your privileges and keeping the appearances, a racist novella, endlessly rewritten for hundreds of years.

Would all that have been relevant? Ha, I’m not sure. Probably not. But it would have been clearly written.

Then I got the flu and my mind is a mess. Can you tell? 😄

Remember to read it, though.firethistime1

Contributions from Kima Jones, Garnette Cadogan, Claudia Rankine, Emily Raboteau, Mitchell S. Jackson, Natasha Trethewey, Daniel José Older, Edwidge Danticat, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Wendy S. Walters, Isabel Wilkerson, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Carol Anderson, Clint Smith, Kevin Young, Kiese Laymon

PS. If you read this book and have actually written a real review, I’d be very happy to add the link here. Feel free to share it in the comment section, I’ll add it.

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