The Fire This Time
In response to recent tragedies and widespread protests across the nation, National Book Award-winning writer Jesmyn Ward looked to James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time for comfort and counsel. In the essay ‘My dungeon shook,’ Baldwin addresses his fifteen-year-old namesake on the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. He writes: ‘You know, and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.’ Jesmyn Ward knows that Baldwin’s words ring as true as ever today, and she has turned to some of her generation’s most original thinkers to write short essays, memoirs, and a few essential poems giving 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 attempt to 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 a callous corruption of a truth that our nation must confront. Baldwin’s ‘fire next time’ is now upon us, and it needs to be talked about.