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Morgan Jerkins is the author of the New York Times bestseller, "This Will Be My Undoing." Her short form work has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, ELLE, and The Cut, among many others. Her next two books, "Why We Get Out" and "Caul Baby," are forthcoming from Harper Books. She is based in New York.

But What Will Your Parents Think?

Illustration by Mark Wang

Morgan Jerkins | Longreads | May 2018 | 11 minutes (2,609 words)

 

This past February, during the book tour for my essay collection, This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female and Feminist in (White) America, one of the recurring questions I received most frequently from readers was about how I pushed past the fear to write about the most intimate aspects of my life? I assumed the crowd expected to hear about some grandiose regimen I followed — half an hour of meditation followed by an hour-long chat with a therapist, combined with some amount of whiskey drinking, or chain-smoking. Nevertheless, I told them the truth: I never did fully push past the fear when I wrote about my internalized anti-blackness, my surgically-modified labia, or my indulgence in pornography. Fear was ever-present as I worked on my book. I found it was best to acknowledge it, but not let its presence stun me into paralysis.

Fear is the little sister my mother never gave birth to. She appears and reappears in the furthest corner of the room in which I write and inches closer and closer as I approach the heart of a confession. I’ve discovered throughout the years that the best approach to meddlesome siblings is to acknowledge that they’re there, because if you don’t, they will wreak havoc and derail whatever it is you set out to do. This essay is the longer answer to that question.

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