“Blackness is an art, not a science. It is a paradox: intangible and visceral; a situation and a story. It is the thread that connects these essays, but its significance as an experience emerges randomly, unpredictably. . . . Race is the story of my life, and therefore black is the body of this book.”
In these twelve deeply personal, connected essays, Bernard details the experience of growing up black in the south with a family name inherited from a white man, surviving a random stabbing at a New Haven coffee shop, marrying a white man from the North and bringing him home to her family, adopting two children from Ethiopia, and living and teaching in a primarily white New England college town. Each of these essays sets out to discover a new way of talking about race and of telling the truth as the author has lived it.
"Black Is the Body is one of the most beautiful, elegant memoirs I've ever read. It's about race, it's about womanhood, it's about friendship, it's about a life of the mind, and also a life of the body. But more than anything, it's about love. I can't praise Emily Bernard enough for what she has created in these pages." --Elizabeth Gilbert
WINNER OF THE CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD PRIZE FOR AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL PROSE
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND KIRKUS REVIEWS
ONE OF MAUREEN CORRIGAN'S 10 UNPUTDOWNABLE READS OF THE YEAR
About the Author
EMILY BERNARD was born and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and received her PhD in American studies from Yale University. She has been the recipient of grants from the Ford Foundation, the NEH, and a W. E. B. Du Bois Resident Fellowship at Harvard University. Her essays have been published in journals and anthologies, among them The American Scholar, Best American Essays, and Best African American Essays. She is the Julian Lindsay Green and Gold Professor of English at the University of Vermont.
“Emily Bernard is a master storyteller. She writes with an honesty and vulnerability that is uncommon. These stories are about what it means to be human—to love, to hurt, to heal. They will make you think, re-think, feel, and grow.”
—Nana-Ama Danquah, author of Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman’s Journey through Depression
"Black Is the Body is one of the most beautiful, elegant memoirs I've ever read. It's about race, it's about womanhood, it's about friendship, it's about a life of the mind, and also a life of the body. But more than anything, it's about love. I can't praise Emily Bernard enough for what she has created in these pages."
“My very favorite book that I have read so far this year…It’s really life changing. If you get no other book this year, get Black Is the Body by Emily Bernard.”
"Of the 12 essays here, there's not one that even comes close to being forgettable. Bernard's language is fresh, poetically compact, and often witty ... Bernard proves herself to be a revelatory storyteller of race in America who can hold her own with some of those great writers she teaches."
--Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
“Familiar and comforting like your bed on a sleep-in morning, yet somber like the toll of a mourning bell, these essays are the voice of professional-class blackness lived adjacent to white people and within white structures, in which continually thinking through what it means to live in a black body and present and defend blackness is inevitable and essential for survival. Thoughtfully examines our obligation to our ancestors and our children, to friends and colleagues, to those who ought to know better and those who don’t, while remaining ever vigilant in the act of caring for our own self. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of Real American: A Memoir
"Black Is the Body brings lucidity, honesty, and insight to the topics of race and interracial relationships ... quietly compelling ... [Bernard's] stories get under your skin."
--Carlo Wolff, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Bernard's lyrical book details traumas and pain from decades past to interrogate the nuances of her own life: growing up black in the South, marrying a white man from the North, and surviving a violent attack which unleashed the storyteller in her."
"Echoes of Joan Didion--terse yet beautiful writing, a bracing honesty--in the graceful new essay collection by Emily Bernard ... Black Is the Body marks the debut of an essayist in command of her gifts, a book that belongs beside the best of contemporary autobiography."
--Hamilton Cain, Chapter 16
"Conceived while the author was hospitalized after being stabbed by a white man, these 13 formidable, destined-to-be-studied essays mark the emergence of an extraordinary voice on race in America."
"Like the absurdly devastating crime that opens this riveting collection, Bernard's essays are impossible to turn away from. Linked by the author's powerful voice and by her experiences of the world--of survival, of falling in love, of interracial marriage and friendship, and of motherhood--each account tells the agonizing story of race in America with realism, nuance, and profound hope. A supremely honest and utterly gripping book."
"Bernard's honesty and vulnerability reveal a strong voice with no sugarcoating, sharing her struggle, ambivalence, hopes, and fears as an individual within a web of relationships, black and white. Highly recommended."
--Library Journal (starred review)
"Lucid ... deeply felt, unflinchingly honest, and openly questioning ... [Bernard] illuminates a legacy of storytelling ... and elaborates on the relationship between blacks and whites. A rare book of healing."
--Kirkus (starred review)
"Contemplative and compassionate ... Bernard's voice is personable yet incisive in exploring the lived reality of race ... [Her] wisdom and compassion radiate throughout this collection."