Author: Morgan Jerkins
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: This was a nuanced, complex book that made me revise much of what I thought I knew about American history.
This book was enough of a genre mash-up that I hesitated to label it a memoir in my post title. Author Morgan Jerkins does include elements of memoir, reminiscing about learning her family history as a child and sharing her recent quest to trace her family history in more detail. Her journey takes her to many sites of significance both to her family history and to the history of Black Americans moving within the US. This portion of the book has elements of both travelogue and general history. She blends all of these elements with interviews with historians and expert locals to tell a nuanced story about her own history and the history of the US.
The complexity of categorizing this book feels appropriate, since one of its major strengths is the way the author adds complexity to what we’re taught (explicitly and through cultural osmosis) about race in the US. She adds nuance to stories that I learned in history classes, highlighting facts that are often glossed over or ignored. She also shows many of the ways, short of explicit racism, that racial categories fail when they run up against the real life intermingling of people.
The author is (obviously) way ahead of me in her thinking on race and I enjoyed getting her thoughts on American history through that lens. She also did a lot of her own learning and interrogating her assumptions as she traveled. Vicariously journeying along with her was incredibly informative. Her exploration of her personal connection to the history of Black movement within the US was nuanced, thoughtful and impressively open to new ideas. I’m definitely adding Morgan Jerkins to my list of authors who I’d read on pretty much any topic. Following her thought process was that enjoyable and enlightening.