I tried listening to this on audiobook first but kept feeling like I was missing things. I am so glad I stopped and went back to print. This collection of essays and poems has so much to say and I’m glad to have finally read it. I’m also glad to have given time to have truly digested some of the other books on race in America before diving into this one. They gave me necessary perspective to read This Fire This Time with. And yes, it is definitely my privilege to experience this intellectually and by choice rather than as an everyday part of my world. Looking into the perspectives of other people and how they live in the world is a part of trying to not perpetuate the stereotypes and problems that we live with.
The essays contained in this collection focus on the black experience in the US today, but they take on different aspects of it. Some look to the past for understanding of how we came to this place and how we are still in a place where black bodies don’t matter, some look to the future for hope, some take a long look at exactly what was happening when it was written and what was being done about it. The problems with race in the US are far from over and they are too ingrained in the country to be just this thing or that thing to get rid of. We can’t wipe them away by tearing down Confederate monuments, though that would certainly be a step in the right direction. It will take so much more than outward actions.
Normally, I try to pick a favorite or find something that stood out more than the others in a collection to talk about but the topics covered enough of a range that I find that hard to do here. As with the other reading I’ve done on race, I find that it gives me a way to speak intelligently about the problems and writers to defer to in order for me to not attempt to speak for another community. It makes sense out of everything and allows me to recalibrate my thinking and how I engage with people of different communities. It also gave me some more reading to do. I will definitely be checking out more on both James Baldwin and Phillis Wheatley. I will look for the “Know Your Rights” murals if I ever go back to New York City. I did identify with the idea that walking around in the US, vice other places in the world looking a certain way has a startling effect. I remember not realizing how much I was stared at in the US until I was in a country where I blended into the crowd more.
I appreciated this book a great deal but would be careful who I recommend it to, mostly because I am not black and not everyone I know might be ready for it. I know it would have been harder for me to take in before reading books like The New Jim Crow and Reimagining Equality and Between the World and Me. These essays were written for their own community and so didn’t give the same kinds of explanations that a person who isn’t a part of them may need. For example, anyone who didn’t really understand the racial influence of the plots of Black Panther or Luke Cage would probably not appreciate this book. If you’re ready for it, though, click on the cover for purchase options from BookLikes or add to Goodreads for later. I had chosen The Fire This Time for my essay anthology for Read Harder 2018, task 22.