Morgan Jerkins’s latest book, ‘Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots’ scintillatingly reminds us of the struggles of an average African American in the United States and the great divide that seemingly exists between the white and black races. From the very first page, Jerkins takes the reader on an intriguing journey into the lives, struggles and mostly defining moments of African-Americans.

‘Wandering in Strange Lands’ also affords Jerkins the opportunity to extol the richness of the black race and its history, by correcting misconceptions about black heritage and touching even the most sensitive topics such as slavery. She leads the reader on an artistic, but fascinating journey into the very essence of reconnecting to one’s roots, using her personal story as inspiration. She tells of how she journeyed from the southern community to her new northern identity. That journey would go on to teach her so much, as she discovers more about her heritage and family roots.

In the book, Jerkins reveals the result of her inquiry into understanding why black people relocate from the south and the reasons some people choose to remain in the south. This very timely book comes at a time where there is a steady increase in questions being asked about black heritage. It also comes on the heels of racial injustice and a reawakening of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The awareness seems to be building, and while many are hopeful of inevitable systemic restructuring, others cannot seem to wrap their heads around the racism and the rationale behind the erroneous beliefs of racial superiority. With more people showing interest in learning about the black race and the experience of African-Americans in the United States, especially with the rise in protests and conversations geared towards promoting equality among all races, Jerkins’s book seeks to provide so many answers to inherent questions.

Jerkins expertly crafts a clear and concise history of black people that were forced into slavery in the south. Jerkins isn’t afraid to speak truth to power. She uncovers several wrongs against the enslaved Africans and their descendants in the Georgia low country, from brutal torture to a modern lack of historical acknowledgment; the complicated past and present of being Creole in and around Natchitoches, Louisiana; and the disenfranchisement of Blacks and natives through unfair legal land allocation practices in Oklahoma.

Jerkins utilizes tools like her personal experiences and interactions with historians and local guides in citing historical facts. She documents quite vividly her expeditions to the south and west in search of answers to the many questions she had concerning religion, food, color, slavery and ancestral ties to those lands.

‘Wandering in Strange Lands’ is a step away from the norm and a solution to many young African-Americans like Jerkins, who are still searching for answers to why and how they came to be. By exploring the curiosity birthed by these uncertainties, Jerkins seeks to help millions discard the previous negative mindset that was also passed on to her by her family. She lets this curiosity direct her across the country to confront truths about her race and meet different new people who had different upbringing and experiences.

Jerkins also digs a lot further by carrying out extensive research and including all the relevant factual events and numbers to offer credible numerical context to the historical migration of her people. She utilizes the testimony of professors, scholars, family members and other residents of the cities which she visited during her research.

This book exerts the most impact from its historical accuracy and its presentation of historical facts in a manner that drives home Jerkins’s point. This delectable and highly unpredictable writer has done a commendable job in digging these facts from the archives of the country and succeeded in establishing credibility.

As African-Americans continue to seek for a common voice in the United States, with many of them facing constant condescension and tribulations in every area of their lives because of the colour of their skin, it is hoped that people like Jerkin do not relent in their pursuit for racial equality, giving people of colour, all over America, the courage to continue conquering and reaffirming their hope for a truly equal world.

Other details:

Publisher: HarperCollins

Price: Rs 644 (kindle edition), Rs 2,067 (hardcover)

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