BOOK REVIEW: Black is the Body by Emily Bernard


5/5 stars

Collections of essays can be hit-or-miss for me, but Black is the Body really blew me away–it’s a powerful collection meditating on Black identity and contemporary America.

Emily Bernard is an academic in African American Studies based at the University of Vermont, but she is originally from the South, tracing her heritage back through American slavery on her mother’s side and Afro-Caribbean culture on her father’s side. She is married to a white man and adopted two baby girls from Ethiopia. Her essays explore the complicated nature of being a Black woman in an incredibly white environment, teaching classrooms full of white students eager to learn about the Black experience but often out of touch with the reality of this–her first essay focuses on the legacy of racial slurs among her students and the works they read in her class.

Even as a collection of essays, the narrative here is fluid and cohesive–each essay builds on the next, and one particular standout is “The Motherland”, telling Bernard’s story of travelling to Ethiopia to adopt her daughters and finding her roots in the African country. Bernard is an academic, but this is an accessible and readable addition to an anti-racist bookshelf. Don’t sleep on this one!

Thank you to Penguin and for the review copy!

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