Tag Archives: essays

Here We Are edited by Kelly Jensen

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen. January 24, 2017. Algonquin Young Readers, 240 p. ISBN: 9781616205867.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

LET’S GET THE FEMINIST PARTY STARTED!

Have you ever wanted to be a superheroine? Join a fandom? Create the perfect empowering playlist? Understand exactly what it means to be a feminist in the twenty-first century? You’ve come to the right place.

Forty-four writers, dancers, actors, and artists contribute essays, lists, poems, comics, and illustrations about everything from body positivity to romance to gender identity to intersectionality to the greatest girl friendships in fiction. Together, they share diverse perspectives on and insights into what feminism means and what it looks like. Come on in, turn the pages, and be inspired to find your own path to feminism by the awesome individuals in Here We Are.

Welcome to one of the most life-changing parties around!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes; Clinical discussion of a female genital mutilation; Sexual assault; Images with stylized nudity

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 8-11. Earnest, conversational, and dauntlessly unapologetic in message, this collection of essays, cartoons, and interviews boldly celebrates and analyzes feminism as it exists today. More important, it reinforces the concept of intersectionality, encouraging a feminism that is open and accepting while continually reminding readers about the ways in which the experience of being a woman can vary widely for women of color, LGBTQ women, and women with disabilities. Some pieces here are reprinted from other texts (Roxanne Gay’s “Bad Feminist: Take Two,” Mindy Kaling’s “Don’t Peak in High School”), while others were commissioned exclusively for this publication. Most of the contributors are writers, often of YA novels and popular blogs, but this takes pains to include a wide array of perspectives, including essays by singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson, politician Wendy Davis, and ballet dancer Michaela DePrince and her sister Mia, as well as an interview with transgender actress Laverne Cox. The voices are wildly diverse: men and women, cis and trans, are included (although women, naturally, dominate), and contributors represent a number of different races, religions, and sexual orientations. The scrapbook-style layout makes this fun, and the intimate, informal tone makes it feel like a journal passed between friends. An education unto itself, the message of inclusion and strength is invaluable.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
This lively anthology, edited by Book Riot associate editor Jensen, broaches the subject of “feminism for the real world” through forty-four essays, comics, poems, interviews, and other material aimed at an adolescent audience. The collection combines previously published works with original content by a diverse group of contributors, including celebrities (Laverne Cox, Mindy Kaling), activists (Mia and Michaela DePrince, Wendy Davis), comics artists (Wendy Xu), and young adult authors (Malinda Lo, Nova Ren Suma, Daniel José Older). The accessible scrapbook-style format is organized into loose subject-area sections (“Gender, Sex, and Sexuality,” “Culture and Pop Culture”) with explanatory “FAQs About Feminism” and lists such as Kody Keplinger’s “Feminist Songs to Sing Along To” and Brandy Colbert’s “Top Ten Black Female Friendships” interspersed throughout. Topics range from the history of the word feminism to personal reflections on the intersections between feminism and race, gender, sexual orientation, and ability. Here We Are functions as an accessible collection of contemporary feminist writing and an introduction to twenty-first-century feminism. By embracing the voices of women, men, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and myriad other identities, the book sends a strong message that feminism is for everyone. Appended with lists for further reading and contributor bios. molly saunders

About the Editor

Kelly Jensen is a former teen librarian who worked in several public libraries before pursuing a full-time career in writing and editing. Her current position is with Book Riot, the largest independent book website in North America, where she focuses on talking about young adult literature in all of its manifestations. Before becoming a fully-fledged adult-like person, she worked in the swanky Texas Legislative Library entering data into a computer while surrounded by important politicians, scooped gelato for hungry college students, and spent hours reading, annotating, and scanning small-town Texas newspapers into a giant searchable database.

Kelly lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three needy-but-awesome cats. In her free time, she does yoga, writes for her personal blog STACKED, drinks a lot of tea, and enjoys disappearing for days reading good books. Her writing has been featured on The Huffington Post, at Rookie Magazine, The Horn Book, BlogHer, and School Library Journal.

Her website is www.stackedbooks.org.

Around the Web

Here We Are on Amazon

Here We Are on Goodreads

Here We Are on JLG

Here We Are Publisher Page

The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward. August 2, 2016. Scribner, 240 p. ISBN: 9781501126345.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 1230.

National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time.

In light of recent tragedies and widespread protests across the nation, The Progressive magazine republished one of its most famous pieces: James Baldwin’s 1962 “Letter to My Nephew,” which was later published in his landmark book, The Fire Next Time. Addressing his fifteen-year-old namesake on the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin wrote: “You know and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.”

Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward knows that Baldwin’s words ring as true as ever today. In response, she has gathered short essays, memoir, and a few essential poems to engage the question of race in the United States. And she has turned to some of her generation’s most original thinkers and writers to give voice to their concerns.

The Fire This Time is divided into three parts that shine a light on the darkest corners of our history, wrestle with our current predicament, and envision a better future. Of the eighteen pieces, ten were written specifically for this volume.

In the fifty-odd years since Baldwin’s essay was published, entire generations have dared everything and made significant progress. But the idea that we are living in the post-Civil Rights era, that we are a “postracial” society, is an inaccurate and harmful reflection of a truth the country must confront. Baldwin’s “fire next time” is now upon us, and it needs to be talked about.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Criminal culture; Racial epithets. 

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 21))
James Baldwin’s famous book of essays, The Fire Next Time (1963), brilliantly examines the interrelated roles of race, history, and religion in the U.S. Building on Baldwin’s title, editor Ward has assembled poetry, essays, and flash nonfiction to address the renewed racial tensions that continue to boil in America in the twenty-first century. The author of two award-winning novels and the critically acclaimed memoir Men We Reaped (2013), Ward divides the volume into three sections: “Legacy,“ “Reckoning,“ and “Jubilee.” The result is a powerfully striking collection, from Honorée Jeffers’ illuminating and exhaustive efforts to correct the legacy of Phillis Wheatley, the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry in the U.S., to poet Kevin Young’s insightful consideration of the humor and tragedy at the heart of the racial hoax perpetrated by the former president of a chapter of the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal. “White Rage,” a short piece by Carol Anderson, deftly reconfigures the outrage and violence of Ferguson, Missouri, as the result of calculated oppression, and poems by Jericho Brown, Natasha Tretheway, and Clint Smith punctuate the book. An absolutely indispensable anthology that should be read alongside other recent, equally transformative works, including Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me (2015) and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen (2014).

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2016)
Poets, scholars, and essayists reflect on race in America.In this insightful collection, novelist and memoirist Ward (Creative Writing/Tulane Univ.; Men We Reaped: A Memoir, 2013, etc.) brings together 18 writers “to dissent, to call for account, to witness, to reckon.” Taking her title from James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time (1963), Ward hopes this book will offer solace and hope to a new generation of readers, just as Baldwin’s work did for her. Many essays respond to racial violence, invoking the tragedies of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sarah Bland, worshipers at Charleston’s Emanuel Church, and Abner Louima, among many others. Edwidge Danticat reports that she asked Louima recently how it feels each time he hears that a black person was killed by police. “It reminds me that our lives mean nothing,” he told her. As other parents reveal in their essays, Danticat feels she must have two conversations with her daughters: “one about why we’re here and the other about why it’s not always a promised land for people who look like us.” She wishes, instead, to assure them “they can overcome everything, if they are courageous, resilient, and brave.” Poet Claudia Rankine was told by the mother of a black son, “the condition of black life is one of mourning.” Besides fear for their children’s futures, some writers focus on their black identity. As a result of genetic testing, Ward discovered that her ancestry was 40 percent European, a result that she found “discomfiting.” “For a few days after I received my results,” she writes, “I looked into the mirror and didn’t know how to understand myself.” Wendy Walters resisted thinking about slavery until the discovery of long-buried slaves in New Hampshire provoked her to research the past. Poet Kevin Young shrewdly probes NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal’s motives to pass as black. Carol Anderson, Emily Raboteau, Natasha Trethewey, and others also add useful essays to this important collection. Timely contributions to an urgent national conversation.

About the Author

Jesmyn Ward is the author of Where the Line Bleeds, Salvage the Bones, and Men We Reaped. She is a former Stegner Fellow (Stanford University) and Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is an associate professor of Creative Writing at Tulane University.

Her work has appeared in BOMB, A Public Space and The Oxford American.

Around the Web

The Fire This Time on Amazon

The Fire This Time on JLG

The Fire This Time on Goodreads