After Trayvon Martin was murdered, Jesmyn Ward went looking for community. She went to Twitter, where she knew people would be outraged. It didn’t last, though; other topics took over. She wanted more. She wanted something she could hold. The Fire This Time is that book. It is a must-read. Recommended By Britt A., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time.
In light of recent tragedies and widespread protests across the nation, The Progressive magazine republished one of its most famous pieces: James Baldwin’s 1962 "Letter to My Nephew," which was later published in his landmark book, The Fire Next Time. Addressing his fifteen-year-old namesake on the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin wrote: "You know and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon."
Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward knows that Baldwin’s words ring as true as ever today. In response, she has gathered short essays, memoir, and a few essential poems to engage the question of race in the United States. And she has turned to some of her generation’s most original thinkers and writers to give voice to their concerns.
The Fire This Time is divided into three parts that shine a light on the darkest corners of our history, wrestle with our current predicament, and envision a better future. Of the eighteen pieces, ten were written specifically for this volume.
In the fifty-odd years since Baldwin’s essay was published, entire generations have dared everything and made significant progress. But the idea that we are living in the post-Civil Rights era, that we are a "post-racial" society is an inaccurate and harmful reflection of a truth the country must confront. Baldwin’s "fire next time" is now upon us, and it needs to be talked about.
Contributors include Carol Anderson, Jericho Brown, Garnette Cadogan, Edwidge Danticat, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Mitchell S. Jackson, Honoree Jeffers, Kima Jones, Kiese Laymon, Daniel Jose Older, Emily Raboteau, Claudia Rankine, Clint Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Wendy S. Walters, Isabel Wilkerson, and Kevin Young.
"Ward's remarkable achievement is the gift of freshly minted perspectives on a tale that may seem old and twice-told. Readers in search of conversations about race in America should start here." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Fires destroy things…burns them up…makes ashes for us all…But fires also keep us warm…give us a glow to sit by…to tell ancestry stories to the children against the rhythmic crackle of history…to make love to against the glow. The generation of segregations gave us The Fire Next Time…we broke down those walls…The generation after segregation gives us the water to mix with the ashes to build…something…anything all…in the words of Margaret Walker…our own. This is a book to pick up and tuck under our hearts to see what we can build." Nikki Giovanni, poet
"In 1963, we were poised on a precipice, intellectually, spiritually, politically primed for the change we knew had to come. Now, some half-century later, we are again at the precipice. We are dismayed and disheartened to find ourselves here, aghast that the rules and players have changed but the game, somehow, is the same. What do we do, this post-Civil Rights generation, in the face of the same injustice, dressed in different clothes, coded in different laws? In The Fire This Time, a new generation of black writers speak with the 'fierce urgency of now.'" Ayana Mathis, novelist
"A half century ago James Baldwin, the prophet in the American wilderness, delivered The Fire Next Time—as complex a reckoning with race, morality and human nature as we have seen. Jesmyn Ward has pulled together in this collection you now hold the incisive, sage, angry and deeply complex voices of a new generation, responding to many of the same questions that confronted us in 1963. To Baldwin's call we now have a choral response—one that should be read by every one of us committed to the cause of equality and freedom." Jelani Cobb, historian
About the Author
Jesmyn Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi. She received her BA and MA from Stanford University and her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she received five Hopwood Awards. She was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and the John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is the author of the novels, Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones; the memoir, Men We Reaped; and the editor of The Fire This Time. Ward is currently at work on her third novel and is an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University. She lives in Mississippi.