The Fire This Time
A New Generation Speaks about Race
The New York Times bestseller, these groundbreaking essays and poems about race—collected by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward and written by the most important voices of her generation—are “thoughtful, searing, and at times, hopeful. The Fire This Time is vivid proof that words are important, because of their power to both cleanse and to clarify” (USA TODAY).
In this bestselling, widely lauded collection, Jesmyn Ward gathers our most original thinkers and writers to speak on contemporary racism and race, including Carol Anderson, Jericho Brown, Edwidge Danticat, Kevin Young, Claudia Rankine, and Honoree Jeffers. “An absolutely indispensable anthology” (Booklist, starred review), The Fire This Time shines a light on the darkest corners of our history, wrestles with our current predicament, and imagines a better future.
Envisioned as a response to The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin’s groundbreaking 1963 essay collection, these contemporary writers reflect on the past, present, and future of race in America. We’ve made significant progress in the fifty-odd years since Baldwin’s essays were published, but America is a long and painful distance away from a “post-racial society”—a truth we must confront if we are to continue to work towards change. Baldwin’s “fire next time” is now upon us, and it needs to be talked about; The Fire This Time “seeks to place the shock of our own times into historical context and, most importantly, to move these times forward” (Vogue).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
If you’ve ever wondered what James Baldwin would have to say about current events, you should pick up this moving collection of poems and essays that pays tribute to one of the most significant voices of the 20th century. Assembled by National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward, The Fire This Time unites more than a dozen insightful writers to wrestle with an array of racially charged issues. Each writer brings a unique voice to these pages, expressing their perspectives so candidly that it feels as though they’re talking to us one-on-one. All the while, they explore themes like grief, self-preservation, and the deep-seated distrust of black skin that still persists today. The result—at times, a heart-wrenching meditation; at other times, a hopeful call to arms—is an anthology that deserves a spot in your library, alongside your favorite Baldwin classics.
In this timely collection of essays and poems, Ward (Men We Reaped) gathers the voices of a new generation whose essays work together as one to present a kaleidoscopic performance of race in America. The 18 contributions (10 of which were written specifically for this collection) cover topics deep in history as well as those in the current culture. One, for example, reveals fresh insight about Phillis Wheatley, the first published African-American poet, and her husband, while other essays are situated in the present, taking readers on a tour of street murals in N.Y.C. and exploring the music of hip-hop duo OutKast. One entry evokes the experience of a young college student exploring the streets of a new city as he learns "what no one had told me was that I was the one who would be considered a threat." Over the course of the collection, readers engage with the challenge of white rage, and learn about the painful links between Emmet Till's open casket and the black bodies on today's streets. The two concluding pieces provide a profoundly moving view of the future deeply affected by the past, through a husband's letter to his expectant wife, followed by a mother's message to her daughters. 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.