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The Fire This Time

I came across a book called The Fire This Time while reading an article about the book on The Root.  This book is a collection of essays and poetry discussing being black in America. I had several favorites among this collection, but I will only go into detail about three of them.


The first one is “White Rage” by Carol Anderson. Anderson said that what happened in Ferguson is another case of what she calls white rage. Anderson states, “Sure it is cloaked in the niceties of law and order, but it is rage nonetheless.” Anderson goes on to discuss other examples of white rage including policies by lawmakers like the voter ID laws during the 2012 election, which disadvantaged African Americans the most. Anderson said, “25 percent of black Americans lack a government-issued photo ID as compared with 8 percent of white Americans according to a joint report conducted by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.”

I found Anderson’s idea about white rage to be interesting, and it made a lot of sense because just when the African American community thinks that we have made progress like with the election of President Obama, all of these other incidents happen where we take a million steps back.

The second essay that I really enjoyed was “Cracking the Code” by Jesmyn Ward, who is also the editor for this book. In this essay, Ward discusses her parents’ heritage. In one story, Ward talks about how people would always assume that her father wasn’t black. Ward and her parents conducted a test from this program called 23andMe where you find out what nationalities you are. With this test, participants would receive a package that included a bottle that participants would spit into and seal it up. Participants would then send this back to 23andMe and get results back saying what their nationalities were. This test has since been disbanded because of health regulations.

“Blackness is the face in the mirror, a not-bad-looking one, that for no reason at all some people uglify or hate on or wish ill for, to, about.” -Kevin Young

I found this essay interesting because people have confused me several times over my life as being a race other than black. When I was younger it didn’t bother me, but now I get offended by this assumption because it’s usually because of my hair that people think that I’m biracial or some other race. I feel offended by this because society has this misconstrued notion that black people can’t have nice and healthy hair unless it comes with a receipt.

The third and final essay I’ll talk about was “Blacker than Thou” by Kevin Young. This essay talks about the Rachel Dolezal situation and the serious impact that it has hadon black people. One quote that stood out to me was “When you are black, you don’t have to look like it, but you have to look at it or look around. Blackness is the face in the mirror, a not-bad-looking one, that for no reason at all some people uglify or hate on or wish ill for, to, about.” This struck me because several times over the course of my life I’ve experienced this hate because of my blackness, even as recent as a few weeks ago.

Other essays that I enjoyed include “Da Art of Storytellin’ (a Prequel)” by Kiese Laymon and “The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning” by Claudia Rankine. This book was inspired by James Baldwin’s book The Fire Next Time, which I really want to read in the near future.


Kayla works at Squirrel Hill as a Clerk, so when you come up to the customer services desk you might see her face! When she’s not at the library she enjoys reading, watching TV & listening to music. You might also find her at your local Starbucks, because she loves her Frappuccinos.

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