tv Morgan Jerkins This Will Be My Undoing CSPAN February 25, 2018 8:10pm-9:02pm EST
escaped each day a world of public service and doing good with a brilliant italian-american with the highest integrity, a world of my own sealed off from my family, which no one could take away from me. [inaudible conversations] hello, everyone. you all sound excited. thank you so much for coming tonight. i am a bookseller at women and children first. we are one of the last 12 feminist bookstores in the united states and we wouldn't still be here if not for all of you so thank you for coming to this event.
give yourselves a round of applause. [applause] i am very grateful to have morgan jerkins and britt julious to discuss "this will be my undoing." before we begin i want to make a few announcements starting with some information about upcoming events here at women and children first. on february 26, we will have britney cooper in conversation with page may and monica to discuss the buck rage a black woman discovers her superpower created this will also be held at the swedish american acm ande amanda will take place from seven to 9 p.m.. tickets are available online through brown paper tickets. if you are interested in learning more about the events, please sign up for the e-mail list at a table around the corner and you can also check out the website and facebook page or follow us on twitter and insta graham.
one final thing before we continue, the women's voices fund is a nonprofit store that covers the cost of having even as such as the one we are having tonight. please consider putting a dollar or a hundred in the cannon located in the back near the e-mail sign-up sheet. a huge sign helping those who may have yet to find a larger audience. your contribution helps to make that possible. another note, we will be selling the book at the table around the corner as well and morgan jerkins will be available for photos and personalized photographs following the event. now to the main event, we are happy to host britt julious who's a journalist and essayist who currently writes the weekly column for "the chicago tribune" and regularly contributes pieces about art, music, based on feminism and culture to publications including "the new york times," esquire, gq,
rolling stone. britt hosts the talkbac talkback featuring stories from young women of color. it is an honor to have morgan jerkins with us today. "this will be my undoing" eliminates the ultimate politics born from the situation of blackness combined with womanhood. but i love about her is the resistance of monoliths. while she speaks to the attention many women of color will relate to she also does so with a lens so deeply personal that it's impossible to strip the work of this individual voice and experience. morgan jerkins is a 25-year-old writer living in new york who graduated from princeton university and was in comparative literature specializing in 19th a russian literature and post modern literature. she has an m.a. from the rising seminar and has written for the new yorker, "new york times," the atlantic, rolling stone, the
new republic and buzz feed among many others it is a contributing editor at catapult. at this time, we can welcome them to the stage. plus [applause] hello, everyone. it's a pleasure being with you all tonight. thank you for coming out this evening to hear me talk about "this will be my undoing" with britt. i'm going to read a section of an essay that was the hardest thing ever and it was the past couple of days i've been
thinking about the need "me too" movement. a couple of days ago when i was back in manhattan i was talking about street harassment and the difficulty of keeping safe as a woman and how it's often affected that we talk about these issues and there was a man in the audience during the q. i-india raised his hanand he rad didn't have a question. [laughter] he said you know, the reason why then follow when in down the block or cursing them relentlessly is because they have no home training and they kept repeating themselves. i nodded and i tried to be gracious, but in the back of my mind i was like how can i think about someone's home training a
sniper tower was set up in harlem just a short walk away from where i lived during the summer of 2016. i do not know for sure why it was there which isn't exactly a hub of activity in the pictures posted on the left side of the glass door as you enter. harlem in general is not that crying heavy. i walked to match one or 2:00 in the morning unscathed. i've never heard of gunshots. i thought maybe they were preparing for something to go down during independence day
celebrations. i moved in around this time last summer and there had been no cyber tower. its presence communicated. sometimes a car would be parked beside the door. i tried to see if there was anyone in the tower, but the windows were tinted black. i wanted to ask passersby what it was doing on the neighborhood but i assumed anyone's guess would have been as good as mine. i always said god forbid anything happens to me i would go to those that sent outside of the barbershop where the laundromat before i could ask the police for help. there was another summer of black rage that burned hotter than the heat itself. in july of 2016 i went to a jazz concert and took the train home
and got off at my usual stop. usually if i'm in a good mood or just finished a project i would work. coat the work myself with food or drink, strawberries, that evening i decided i could go for some mentos and before he returned to my apartment i ended with a shower and netflix. there was one open at lenox avenue and despite the drug addicts lingering around the idols i headed inside. this was the same drug addict that i saw earlier and didn't make eye contact with. as i was entering the store, a man entered and kept calling me sweetheart and attempted to promote a bmx concert. everybody laughs at that part. [laughter] i kept my earbuds an and until i approached the counter as they needed to hear the cashier tell me how much to pay.
no sooner did i pay for them, the man called out to me and i made eye contact with him before stopping. supposedly, dmx was having a concert and he was in charge by promoting flyers. i don't know why he was aggressive, but i continued in the conversation. i asked when it was repeatedly nodded my head and artists that i thought was done over a decade. the man that introduced yourself as charlie wanted me to take down his number and call to get tickets at a discounted price. i told him i would memorize it at he wasn't satisfied with my suggestion. there was discussed in his voi voice. why are you playing games, you home girls are something else you think i'm trying to hit on you but i'm trying to do business and make money. i mean i'm handsome and all but i'm not trying to hit on you.
you out here playing games you harlem girls. i'm not from harlem i said. what i wanted to say in them home and was you don't know me but in veterans picked i think it was a way of evading his overconfidence about having the women in the neighborhood to get up to a science. science. in that moment i was scared. his voice was increasing in volume and anger punctuated each word like to strike a chord. the rest of harlem disintegrated as both he and i existed in a vacuum. i felt alone. what if he grabs and pins me up against the wall of the outside philly, so i took out my cell phone and pretended to enter the number in my contact directory. luckily he didn't lean over to see what i was doing. the woman who went into the deli wasn't the same who continued home. as soon as i walked to the end of the block and waited for the signal that it was okay to proceed, i knew something had
changed. i had been violated. he didn't make remarks about my body yet it's now terrified me. the pioneer supermarket with a nail salons became two-dimensional as if they could call down my poker cards. a police car was parked in its red and blue lights flickering and the police officers one white and the other black leaders against the side of the car chatting with those who crowded around a table with vhs cassettes. the officer inadvertently glanced at me and i looked back at him but said nothing yet i wanted him to comprehend that my eyes were calm and seating for my closed mouth. they were yelling for help but if either of the officers ran to my site and asked wha side and e matter i would have given them my arms and legs free of any
bruises or legs and looked behinand lookedbehind to see ifd which he didn't and said nothing. they would have scoffed thinking i was crazy. and if i did speak up and say there was a man harassing me at the deli at 127 then the clinics, this was harlem after all. such things were for all intents and purposes normal. once i made it to my room i dropped my purse on the floor and sat in silence staring at my computer screen i wanted to grip onto the side of my desk. i would lose balance and crashed onto the ground but at least it would confirm i was still on this earth on the verge of tears and angry with myself for it. he didn't spit at me or call me names, he didn't put his hands on me, he didn't rape me. i didn't deserve to cry. i had to earn the right to let my tears fall and when i looked at my body i knew i was unworthy i repeatedly told myself it could have been worse and
emotional distress is less significant than physical. if i didn't have any scars it should be something to easily get over. it was internally and should be kept private. i've always been the kind of person who mitigates personal experiences by telling myself that they were never that bad. i texted my friend with whom i had gone to a jazz concert and i wanted him to fall in love with the. i told him what happened and he replied with a sad face and know g.. i was dissatisfied with his response but what was he supposed to do, take the subway up to where i lived which would take two hours so he could go searching for c-charlie and besides it wasn't like we were dating so what could i have done to defend myself? the summer have never been kind to black people go to charleston massacre happened in june, george zimmerman was acquitted in july, michael brown was murdered in august and then that
summer the murders of sterling and castillo i couldn't live with myself if i reported him to the police because who knows what he would have done he could have gotten a warning or also taken him into custody and then god knows what else. i would subject myself to the harassment a thousand times over rather than watch his face hit the pavement. that is a good trail. when i think about the conversation i started to second-guess myself. maybe what he wanted his money maybe i cry because i was still getting used to the city environment or he was going to hurt me the more excuses i made
for him, the less trusting i became of my body and my own instincts and the sniper tower still there i do not acknowledge it now when i walk by i keep my head low and headphones against my ears. that to all the other black women with whom i crossed paths every night as i returned to my apartment. i wonder what kind of secrets they are holding in their bodies and what kind of experiences they buried to protect someone else at their own expense in whom they can run to for help. ' [applause] >> bmy voice isn't where it should be, but just taking that passage into consideration as well as the rest of the book,
how did you decide what was going to be included in your collection? how did you decide this is the specific story i want to tell and it would include both references to the ubiquitousness of street harassment and sort of coupling that with the murders of black man in america? >> in that particular chapter i am talking so much about my sexuality and faith and my own mishaps with men. i was hyper aware or obsessed with how i appeared to other people and how i was often prevailed by other people and i think these type of topics gets magnified when you live in a city where there is the delineation between the public and private spaces are very much
blurred. often times when we talk about street harassment or sexual assault and we think of the controversy that surrounds public figures like bill cosby or nate parker, often times it puts black women in a very difficult position because there is this belief that they are trying to tear the black man down for the women, the survivors it's i shouldn't have to put that to the side for black progress. i've wanted to write about this chapter and it was hard to write about this particular experience because as you can tell while i was reading it, there was so much second guessing i didn't want to hurt this person even though this person scared the crap out of me. to this day i think what would have happened if he leaned over and saw that i wasn't putting
his number in to my contacts, but i was so concerned about protecting him that it was more than just being a man can he was black and when we think about the black wives matter movement and how ubiquitous that is, that would have been a huge loss if i could incorporate that into this book. >> expanding from there, can you go into the decisions were what was the reasoning behind the decisions you made in terms of the constant in the book, you write extensively about your childhood for examples and experiences in terms of navigating the world. how did you decide that these pieces of your life were going to frame this particular narrative that looks at the black american female experien experience? >> if any of you are familiar
with the book publishing process, when you try to sell an essay collection on the have to do something called a book proposal and one of the proponents of the book proposal is writing sample chapters that would inevitably end up in the book. so it is interesting because when i decided i was going to write a book about sexual feminism, all these memories started to come up to the surface. if you started to read the book, the first chapter talks about wanting to chilean and old white cheerleading squad and that is one of the memories that came to the surface to write about but it was also difficult because, i'm going to make an argument here. because we live in trump america and everyone is in the race, i wanted to demonstrate even from a person of a marginalized background there are so many
false starts and rough edges to that. so, when i wrote about my childhood or about my dating experiences and all of that, i wanted to show how messy this evolution could be and i told myself as well, you know, i would be doing a disservice to the readers if i tried to paint a sanitized picture of who i am, because that is in life and so, it was a part of me saying i know this is important. i am trying to be aware of the way that it would make people feefeel but also saying that i wasn't always this person. i was hurt, i was insecure, i had a lot of self-hatred and i thought it was necessary to give a full portrait of myself to show that. ..
i tell people i'm just gonna talk about it now because at one point i was afraid to. now that i have this platform i'm going to talk about it. when you're playing for publishing jobs a lot of times would be like you need for years i've in english related background and i just assumed i would get something. i got nothing. it was emotionally and financially devastating to go for interviews and i can call back. i had no choice but to go home. when i started freelancing in 2014 is at a time when editors were hungry for these by women. there are also looking for those saying we don't have anybody who can talk about the issues that are coming to the surface of the most horrific way. so it was about me writing these the personal essays. i had an agent about a year and
send why don't you read about black women. i started writing fiction in high school and i did an mfa in fiction. she saw my work and said maybe you can expand on it. at that time i was bombarded in a good way with so much learning about what feminists amends. i came from a tight christian community. feminist was a bad word. it meant that you wanted to overtake the man. so to be bombarded with the knowledge, these threads about uneven emotional labor, the horrific murder rates of trans black and all of these things. i want to write something.
i was young and when i get to certain age amid a reach up and say there's another layer i can add onto this experience. because i feel like we're in a great moment for black artistic development over many mediums i thought why not. i don't have a lot of hope in it. but luckily it worked out. >> for some -- you talked about how he wanted to be very open when i hope things back in terms of telling your own story. what were some of the more difficult sessions for you in terms of writing the book and pulling from your past? >> one of the must of got things to write about the experience i had with a person who is a bully. thinking about her english but
also how much i cannot stand her either because i had a lot of self-hatred going on. even though at 14 years old i didn't know what assimilation meant, that's what i clung to. i thought it would protect me in a way and bring up those memories of what i felt about her and myself with regards to that experience. also when i got my heartbroken and felt like i failed not only as a black woman but in tandem about the success i was getting. it doesn't depict me in the best
light so is very hard. it was also hard because i was like enough to have an astute editor. when you have a great editor you know when they're psychologically cutting corners. they can tell when you're trying to write a paragraph and skipping ahead to much. they tell me you went too fast and you need to submerge yourself further because he got more in there. it was emotionally challenging to not only be afraid i know that people can see me how they want to but also know the family together have to go all the way there. i had never been given myself the time and space to sit with those memories. i buried them to keep going on with my life. >> to about the interpretations of your writing and if people might see things on the surface and make judgments. two very people will just be reading things from that perspective or to feel confident that people can take and i know that you are pulling from the darker weather more comfortable parts of your past to tell us the story?
>> yes, i worry. even though i'm an adult i still want people to like me. i want people to like me a lot. i think that is part of my former self, the girl that wanted to be left invalidated all of the time. you have to surrender when you're writing a book. you have to realize that once the book leaves your hands and iran has the power to think however they want to think. when people read something whether it's positive or negative they are allowed. every day i tell myself of course i want someone to like my book but even if they don't, if matter still. they can feel how they want to feel even if i want everybody to like me. i have to surrender and give that up as a writer. >> something that's interesting and it has sometimes happened with other pieces of art is that
pieces people assume that this is how all black women feel are all black men feel. it represents black people in general. do worry about people judging what you're writing and taken from adam believing that this is the only black perspective they should take but things? >> yes. even though i say the first chapter is not a one-size-fits-all. it cannot be resolute to any type of experience, even my own because i'm still a live and still living.
i think there is a search for universal truth particularly when it comes to people marginalizing beauty. a lot of our stores are not told. if you care for the one-story think you'll to what will cover the gambit of the people in the room. i tell people i have certain privileges, i'm light-skinned, i'm straight. and still people say she's tried to speak for all of us. tell one argue with you because i'm not. but i understand the undercurrent of the discomfort. because there are more stories that need to be told and i cannot do that. that just reinforces another negative stereotype. i hope that being here with all of you that other editors will wake up and get more stories. that is what i hope. >> that's talk about what was
most enjoyable chapter for you to write about? you talked about what was most difficult and about digging deep into your experiences as a bully. give you joy in the writing process? >> three chapters gave me joy. what was writing a love letter to michelle obama. i love her. but who doesn't? was easy to write because she just matters so much to me and so many people. another one i loved was how to survive. it was a manifesto.
it is about celebrating oneself. it is therapeutic for me to write that. the last chapter called a blocker like me i was writing about my experience as a writer and about how hard it was being rejected in a creative writing program in school. but that i have risen above and hours joy too. so pulling the reader into an oasis so they are not traumatized. just stick with me, it's coming. >> speaking of the last chapter, live -- there a lot of young black women here today which is great. they would want to know what advice or insight you'd have in terms of approaching the writing community, both fiction and fish world as well as working for the
writing well. i know i went through a lot of struggles in a chicago and writing about music where men don't care what a woman has to say. what things would you tell your readers and listeners? >> don't ask for permission. and i mean it. to not ask for permission. maybe i'm a impatient person. if i sign editor's e-mail address in plain sight on twitter, i'm contact and that person. they put it out there so they want nobody to contact the mission put it out there. so when people asked me to like how did you get published in new yorker? is that i found the e-mail address and got rejected three times. the fourth time at work.
another when i got rejected eight times. i sent a pitch in five minutes later i got nothing. don't ask for permission and don't be afraid to reach out, especially authors of color. you cannot imagine the type of challenges they face. some writing a book and some just as good to have someone say, i see you. you never know, that person might be a mentor. it was for me. find your circle of people who are going to be there for you when the writing gets tough and will apply to when you find a success. that's incredibly important. as a black woman and publishing
gravitate and lean into what you naturally like. ten think you have to be an investigative journalist if you know you can write an analysis on something like nobody's business. maybe pop culture is your thing and that's okay. you have to press the key. don't wait for someone else. >> never going to take questions from the audience. any questions? >> i love this question, i have a particular affinity for words that start with the prefix on, like unwinding and unraveling, on learning, doing. a lot of the memories i bring up i did not give myself the time
and space to really unpack because it was painful. now that i have distance i'm able to go backwards onto the recollections and assessment. i was worried about the title because i thought i was often amiss but it's a way of going backwards to show where i came from before launching forward. >> is any get you started in 2014, people were looking for personal essays. i heard the reverse that post 2016 election is like everybody has too many problems to hear, do you agree with that and to think that's a problem. >> i agree with it. because the fact that i'm here is a blessing.
because this takes up so much personal space. as soon as he was elected so many book people, culture critics afraid of what that would mean for their publications because everybody wants to hear about trump and all the horrible things that they're doing every day. also in terms of personal essays i feel like writers don't have a chance to be exported. everything has to have a political opinion. in 2014 i can talk about a medical emergency 2018 i have to say how does it relate to health care and i want to talk about him now. but also facebook is misled. because companies are getting so
much money from video now so there you go where the money is. the problem is editorial budgets are slashed. the jobs get cut so you don't have people in editors with the bandwidth to not only publish the essays but to help on the writers so they can build their portfolio. that only as a tribe becoming the president but the video clicks happening it's like a domino effect. it's only been has ava been for years and it's nine day. >> talking about how it's amazing you even here in this climate. what can people do to realize the trump administration is only one sector and keep pushing forward with issues that you've talked about in your book. luckily duty to keep aware?
>> i was to people you have to take breaks. if you want to feel sad every moment of the day just look at what's happening with reproductive health in texas somewhere, you can find it easily but everyone has a limit. you cannot be on all the time. there certain topics you don't know that other people know better than you but that doesn't mean you're out of the race. i was told people of theirs in march going on and you know you can't go because you have a disability or you're not feeling well you know that you could do arrested, don't be shamed into doing it. there's other ways you can contribute. i tried to tell people it's good to stay informed because the fight would belong but we also need you and you have to know
when your limits are it's gonna be here for a while. you can help anybody else if you can help yourself. it's the truth. [inaudible question] >> when i was being bullet there so much i wanted to say. i didn't say because i was afraid. i went home every day and created the stories because i wanted friends. granite my sentence structure was terrible, the plot was not there, but i loved it. even your good and that i could tell a story. i loved entertaining people. but i just did know the craft.
>> when i was reading your book i had no idea -- [inaudible question] what i think is in your future? >> i want to write my books. i want to travel more. i want to keep pushing myself as a writer whether that's really more challenging work, finding more communities that are growing and i want to tell other people stories. i'm not to talk about myself a little bit, have we might
ventures to cover. it will be a while before i write something that's autobiographical in this way. i want to challenge myself to tell other stories to tell them with the same amount of warmth and urgency that i can tell my own. >> congratulations on the book. can you talk more about feeling vulnerable especially when you are right in the park and how you coped with that? i know you have talked about therapy and how that's been helpful but is there anything else that helps overcome that feeling of vulnerability? >> some i'm basically got me together in something. i pride myself on being the
gemini is talking to someone and i said to this person i think i don't get it, i'm not getting these results with other people family talkative, doesn't make sense. this person said just because you're talkative doesn't mean you're open. that revolutionized everything. when i started writing this book i had no therapy. therapy now, just had our long therapy session with my black therapist this morning. but i work out and a journal and i tried to slow down the process of negative experiences. in the past and sent the negative happened i thought it was my fault.
or i would allow myself to be upset so now in terms of self-care there's have a way more conversations with myself with people in my life to let them see those moments when i'm not at a hundred. that's true intimacy not letting someone see when you're good but allowing someone to care for you when you are weakening someone else. >> when you focused on 19th century russian literature and japanese literature, did any of that influence your work? >> in the beginning i was reading works by people who were not like me.
that influenced my writing because i was trying to sound like men or a lot of dead white men. i had an instructor who taught me you are not writing like yourself. it's basically someone upon a bell from taking your mask off so why are you trying to simulate so much. it did influence me for a long time but i had to distance myself from it to hear what i really wanted to say. i'm still a nerd with that stuff. i could talk your head off about that stuff because that's what i studied for four years.
it was a great time in my life in undergrad because i did not have advisor say you're too ambitious. there was no limits on what i wanted to study and i was so thankful and even those the connection seem far out it's a great communication starter. to know that i could go there and there were not boundaries. >> to have advice for people who are still struggling at paying the bills and just trying to get into the ritual of making writing the real deal. >> to reach much into the work ethics of other people. me and my stride is that i write in the morning because you can talk to me about anything in the morning. i'm sharp. when it gets to noon until 45:0s
and i am not writing anything. if you come across a writer who says they can write from nine until five, i know those two or three hours in the morning it's gonna be good. know your stride. if you feel you can only write at a certain time and it's only going to be 450 years but it's the best then do that. if you need to have your light pointed this way and a t right here then that's okay too. just know where your stride is. whatever change you have to make to get that then you are unstoppable. >> your speaking has a lot of university alan to it.
and how it relates to other people. there are number of times when i'm in a situation where you have right privilege for your white and i'm this so you couldn't possibly get in my world. so maybe you don't know something so well. and if you like your message is so much to share with the world that where were at so how do you make this not a black versus white issue. how do you paint it to the world without being polarized? we are in such a polarized place. >> it's interesting, when we
talk about our experiences let's talk about sexual assault, i think the difficulty in talking about my experience as a woman i have to bring in my race and that because i can't divorce it. when you enter into spaces where maybe you're the only black women in the room as a black woman if you put that clause in their you're undermining, and you're not. you're just adding a layer. if i'm talking to someone who's a religious minority issue not be the olympics. it's not to undermine anyone. so talking about how this book says it's in white america because as a black woman i have to be conscious of how blackness functions. yes there moments where i'm not
worrying about this force but i have to confront it have head-on because of the legacy of black people in this country. sometimes it does feel polarizing because of the black woman oftentimes our contributions, our beauty is often erased record. but i don't want people to see it as a way being antagonistic but a lesson of how living in this country feels like and to deal with these realities and to not her people at the expense of ourselves. so people need to understand this is a legacy that oftentimes black women have to deal with
>> coming up. tara westover details are wife growing up with survivalist parents in the idaho mountains. her introduction to formal education at age 17 and her graduation from cambridge university. she's interviewed by susanna. afterwards is a weekly program interviewing top authors about their latest work. >> host: i am happy and thrilled to be here with you today. for this book "educated". this is one of the most extraordinary memoirs i have ever read. i'm honored to be here today. i was blown away by. i'm reading it for