Writer Morgan Jerkins is just 25, but the South Jersey native has already established herself as a fierce and incisive critic, willing to tackle taboo topics and deliver controversial commentaries with confidence and grace.
“Writing as a black woman,” says Jerkins, “my words are always going to be politicized. The personal and the political are pretty much inextricable.”
In 2014, Jerkins began writing op-eds and personal essays for the New York Times and the Guardian. She has also written for the New Yorker, Rolling Stone and the Atlantic. More recently, Jerkins was named associate editor of Catapult, an online literary magazine, and added author to her accomplishments. Her debut collection of essays, This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America, is due January 30 from Harper Perennial.
In the book, Jerkins examines pop culture, misogyny, black history and racism. She reflects on growing up in Atlantic and Gloucester counties and unravels what it means to be a black woman in today’s society, seamlessly weaving the personal with the political in powerful essays such as “A Lotus for Michelle.” The piece reads like an open letter to Michelle Obama who, like Jerkins, attended Princeton University.
Jerkins now lives in Harlem, a historically African-American community that serves her as a source of inspiration. “Every time I walk out the door, there are so many stories to uncover,” she says.
Still, Jerkins often makes the trip to her mother’s South Jersey home in Williamstown, where she savors the simple pleasures not available to her in the city—like driving to Wawa in her own car to buy a hoagie, or getting a restful night’s sleep without being awakened by sirens and horns.
“When I come home to New Jersey, I relish how silent it is,” she says. “I relish that stillness.”