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PS Picks: Morgan Jerkins on Intergenerational Trauma in 'This Will Be My Undoing'

PS Picks is a selection of the best things that the magazine's staff and contributors are reading, watching, or otherwise paying attention to in the worlds of art, politics, and culture.
This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America.

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

Writer Morgan Jerkins is intimidatingly well-accomplished for her age. The Princeton University graduate, who is fluent in six languages and only in her mid-twenties, has written about literature, feminism, sports, pop culture, police shootings, and white privilege for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Elle, among others. Now, she's debuting her first book, a collection of essays called This Will Be My Undoing, in January. The book promises to "expose the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression"—a topic upon which Jerkins has written at length, and with acuity.

In her work online, Jerkins has set herself apart from other identity-focused writers with her observations on intergenerational trauma. She writes clearly on the centuries of violence waged against black bodies in the United States, from slavery to Jim Crow to police shootings: As she describes in one 2015 piece about reading news articles as a black woman, "These triggers, these visceral reactions do not disappear on their own regardless of any new laws passed or apologies made to the victimized." This Will Be My Undoing promises to expand the purview of Jenkins' work, with the broad prompt, "What does it mean to 'be'—to live as, to exist as—a black woman today?" Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists have previously—and popularly—provided their answers to such a question; Jerkins' new collection is poised to bring her characteristic nuance and empathy to her own.

A version of this story originally appeared in the December/January 2018 issue of Pacific Standard.