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This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  5,788 ratings  ·  822 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 258 pages
Published January 30th 2018 by Harper Perennial
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In Morgan Jerkins’s remarkable debut essay collection This Will Be Our Undoing, she is a deft cartographer of black girlhood and womanhood. From one essay to the next, Jerkins weaves the personal with the public and political in compelling, challenging ways. Her prodigious intellect and curiosity are on full display throughout this outstanding collection. The last line of the book reads, “You should’ve known I was coming,” and indeed, in this, too, Jerkins is prescient. With this collection, she ...more
Wow...I think my main question about Morgan Jerkins' debut is similar to many on my timeline—what book were the rest of y'all reading?

My first introduction to Jerkins was her black gentrifier essay, which I read in my freshman year at Penn. As a student attending a university responsible for many of our city's gentrification problems, I found the article to be introspective in a way many pieces aren't. Instead of scapegoating faceless institutions or white hipsters, Jerkins put her own privilege
Emily May
Jan 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, feminism, 2018
I call myself black because that is who I am. Blackness is a label that I do not have a choice in rejecting as long as systemic barriers exist in this country. But also, my blackness is an honor, and as long as I continue to live, I will always esteem it as such.

This Will Be My Undoing is a fantastic portrait of one woman's experience with black girlhood. Jerkins explores through essays what it was like growing up as a black girl with racial divisions in school, white beauty standards, and r
Jessica Woodbury
I read a lot of books by women of color, and specifically black women. But I think THIS WILL BE MY UNDOING may be the single book that has most clearly showed me the experience of being a young black woman in America today. I am a white woman and I think part of the reason Jerkins succeeds so wildly is that she is not centering her book around readers like me. Much of what we encounter in the world centers on a default white audience. The fact that this book isn't "for me" is exactly why it work ...more
A compelling essay collection that tackles the intersections of womanhood, blackness, and feminism. I would recommend This Will Be My Undoing to everyone - Jerkins centers black women in her writing so that demographic may find a home in her work, and the rest of us can listen and learn. Weaving the personal and political, she writes about how black women's bodies are viewed and treated as sexual objects, the ways that white women can do things like abuse drugs and share all the details and be r ...more
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 w
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
There are fragments of gems here. When Jerkins is good, she’s stellar. The best essay was “Human, Not Black,” about her time studying abroad in Japan and finding anonymity and freedom as a foreigner. But much of the rest is either a disorganized mess, frustratingly superficial, or overly dramatic. Jerkins is obviously a talented writer, but she lacks the maturity and wisdom to really grapple effectively with the issues she raises. I was also surprised by the amount of thinly veiled disdain for b ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
​I am not going to critique this book because it was not written with me, a white woman, as the intended audience. Suffice to say, I mostly enjoyed it and am thankful for another book by a Black feminist to inform me about the particular struggles faced by Black women. ​Morgan Jerkins is an author whose voice we desperately need to hear and she writes honestly, eloquently, and with much insight into her experiences of being a Black woman in a white supremacist and patriarchal country.
Whitney Atkinson
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

TW: bullying, racism, mentions of rape/assault

This is the first collection of feminist essays I've read that's specifically focused on black women's experiences and how their experiences are distinguished from the general movement of feminism. And I loved it. This book was never info dumpy; it actually was quite anecdotal and would discuss a lot of the author's life and personal experiences and then transition from that storytelling format to a discussion of black women and prejudices a
Morgan Jerkins is in a hurry to become a well known writer and she is trying to get our attention in any way she knows how—jump-starting her celebrity by being polarizing. She is young still, twenty-five now. I predict she will recognize her own sense of entitlement when she is a little older. But it is awfully hard to dislike someone so articulate and eager to participate in the big questions we face today. At least we know what she is thinking.

The more I read by and about black women, the more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
An important read focused on the black, female, feminist experience. What I appreciated was how Morgan Jerkins takes another look at events that have already had their 15 minutes, contextualizing them in ways I appreciated learning from, from Linda Chavers' much contested essay about black-girl-magic (and how disability fits in) to Beyonce and Lemonade. She talks about the importance of having a voice in a world that tries to stop it from the moment you are born, and the importance of self-care. ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it did not like it
I AM NOT ROOTING FOR EVERYBODY BLACK. This book is horrible, confusing at best. There is no flow and just when I hoped that she would win, SHE DOESN’T. Where is she undone exactly?? There comes a time in ones life where you must take off the expectations/impressions of others and wear your own. She is HAUNTED by her mother’s words, the love that she feels she deserved but never stuck her neck out for— at least that is what i perceived from her words. I am no brighter from this book nor am I will ...more
Chanda Prescod-weinstein
Chapter 9 is great. There are some good threads elsewhere. There is some really problematic writing about Black women in here that literally made me feel that awful feeling in my chest. I wish Morgan had been pushed more to work on her prose here — but more, to work on what she was saying, about whom, and why. I am so confused about why Black women are so heavily targeted and why there are thinly veiled attacks on well-known Black women writers. She also speaks in general terms about Black mothe ...more
Feb 2018 My Book Box Non-fiction pick.

Disclaimer: I am a white woman. Additionally, I teach students who come from the same places in New Jersey that Jerkins cites in this book. I am trying not to center myself in the narrative, but the first paragraph of the review is in part a gut reaction, so please bear with me.

I am conflicted about this book. The thing that Jerkins does and does is generalize. These sweeping generalizations are off putting. I’m not even talking about the whole voting for Tr
I had a hard time with this book of essays, and I know this is an unpopular view. (Though I don't understand how books get the high grades they get on GR usually.) I have held off on mentioning anything because my viewpoint seemed so different, but I finally got together with my Black Women Read group - an in person one - tonight, and we all had very very similar reactions. We are black women living in Baltimore who are all over 45. Many of us are well over 45.

We decided, as a group, once someon
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Sigh. I don't know what to say. This collection of essays is very good. Jerkins goes into the highs and lows of being a black woman in America. She goes into what it means to be a black woman while on travel (Russia and Japan). She goes into being a black woman trying to be successful, but still treated like she's from another world since many black men out there don't know what to do with a black woman who is out there being a success and doesn't have time for their foolishness.

Jerkins goes in
Welp...I now know more about Morgan Jerkin's vagina than I do my own...If you'd like to read the rest of this review and see Elle Fashion's book trailer for this book CLICK HERE. ...more
Rebel Women Lit
Dec 13, 2017 added it
Shelves: arcs
Thank you to Harper Perennial for an advanced readers copy of "This Will Be My Undoing" in exchange for an honest review.

Now more than ever, owing to social media and online publications, black women are at the center of discourse; both as subject matter and narrator. "This Will Be My Undoing" sees Morgan Jerkins, a young black woman, interlacing her personal experiences with historical and modern sources to underscore black girlhood and womanhood against the white backdrop of America. With her
Dawnelle Wilkie
Apr 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
Two* stars for brave, honest, unapologetic writing. That's the positive stuff. Now for the rest...

I wanted to like this book more than I did and as a middle-class middle-aged white woman, I feel wildly out of my lane commenting at all but I've got a big mouth, too many letters behind my name, and shit to say so here we go.

First bone of contention: Uh, what kind of feminism is that?

I have nothing but respect for women who write openly and honestly (read: vulnerably) about sexual violence, especi
 Sarah Lumos
“I was never taught that the world would nurture me, so I perfected the ways of hiding.”

I feel a bit conflicted about this book. The topics discussed in it are so important, but I did have a few minor issues with it. I listened to the audiobook version of this and it was narrated by Jerkins herself. If you can, I would recommend listening to the audio. I always find it makes memoirs a special experience if you can hear it in the author's own voice.

This book is a collection of essays connectin
Kris - My Novelesque Life
2018; Harper Perennial/HarperCollins Canada
(Review Not on Blog)

I found Morgan Jerkins' collection of essays very engaging and quick to read. Jerkins takes on big topics like race and feminism and disarms her readers with humour and compassion. She relates her experiences as a black feminist woman in America so that we see her perspective but also that this not just an anomaly. I don't live in the US and I am not black but there were moments as I read this book and knew that exact
- what happened to you was aggressive panhandling. there may have been a street harassment element but if you're going to talk about it and a potential police response you should also talk about status offences and how they've been handled by the law
- the hatred of white women to the extent of getting off on them being violently assaulted in pornography??? this is not normal ~racial tension. get counselling. also no critique of pornography??
- the story about the bully girl seemed really classist
Kenya Wright
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This isn't a beach read.

You'll probably be pretty angry after reading this book.

But then you'll probably also gain some understanding of American society through a black woman's eyes. And even if you're a black woman, understanding still comes.

Many times I thought she's gone into my head and just wrote things down. I remember wanting to be a white girl, when I was a kid. I remember the horror of perms and the fear of looking too black, too African, and acting too much like an angry black women.
I'm DNFing this book after the first 4 chapters/essays. Although I do agree with Morgan Jerkin's point that Black women are still mainly excluded from the feminist movement, from what I've read so far, this book was a letdown. The author is trying to speak for a generation and maybe even Black women in general but fails to regard them as individuals thus painting a generalized picture, seemingly often looking down on them as being too loud, too dark or not achieved enough. This didn't help me un ...more
Nicole Froio
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
THIS WILL BE MY UNDOING is a book about the experiences of a young black woman in America. Jerkins writing is nothing short of addictive, I devoured this book and learned a lot from it. She writes with honesty, weaving her own experiences with historical references about black culture and resistance, writing and art that made her think, black people who inspire her and white people who disappoint her. Jerkins' writing is complex and her reasoning is nuanced, and she makes clear that this book is ...more
SUSAN   *Nevertheless,she persisted*
This was a fantastic book. I highly recommend it.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There's much to say about this book but I will keep it brief and come back if I need to. This book is exactly what I had hoped and more. This book should be required reading for black women. It is not watered down so that white people can feel comfortable while reading because it isn't about them. If they want to read and learn something then great. Morgan gives us her experience as a black woman in America and basically says " Yea, I know". We may not have had the exact experiences but same scr ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ylenia by: The queen Roxane Gay
...that saying I feel for you to a woman unlike yourself means you somehow share in experience, is one of the pitfalls that plagues mainstream feminism. It signals to women of color that their stories are only worth telling if a white person can understand them, and therefore that a white person's emotions and responses are of greater importance than the stories themselves. We cannot come together if we do not recognize our differences first.
These differences are best articulated when women of c
J Beckett
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"You should've known I was coming." -- Morgan Jerkins

In late 2016 the writing of Morgan Jerkins, a phenom who orchestrated phrases with amazing fervor and openness, slammed upon my literary landscape like a Sikhote-Alin meteorite. She'd been around for a minute, I'd later learn, as I Googled her name and scrolled through a canon of her articles and blogs as far back as 2014, but, as I had just become familiar, she was [for me] a welcomed fresh face and a new beautiful mind.

It was Jerkins' lyrica
⠀n. ♡
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
i read this for my women and gender studies class and i can't explain how much i want everyone to read it. ...more
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Morgan Jerkins is the author of the New York Times bestseller, This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America and the forthcoming Wandering In Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots.

A graduate of Princeton University and the Bennington Writing Seminars, Jerkins is the current Senior Editor at ZORA of Medium and for

Articles featuring this book

The Great Migration was the movement of six million African Americans out of the South to urban areas in the Northeast, Midwest, and West between...
45 likes · 4 comments
“We cannot come together if we do not recognize our differences first. These differences are best articulated when women of color occupy the center of the discourse while white women remain silent, actively listen, and do not try to reinforce supremacy by inserting themselves in the middle of the discussion.” 13 likes
“When there is no equality there can not be equivalency.” 12 likes
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