Harriet Jacobs’ are just three of many early personal narratives about black life that center on horrific treatment or living conditions—and eventual triumph.
They've each become a model of the genre, in their own ways.
Society sees women of color’s shameless writing as proof of deviance, not a relatable and fun story to share on social media.
Rarely is a black woman writer plucked from the world of online personal essay writing and offered a major publishing deal like Emily Gould, whose success Bennett attributed to her confessional blogging, or Cat Marnell, who famously netted a $500,000 advance from Simon & Schuster for a proposed memoir based on the self-destructive, drug-fueled exploits she once blogged about at XOJane and has also been known to underpay its freelancers and full-time employees, as noted in a Gawker profile on the company.
Posting that work online holds me accountable to those thoughts and that reasoning.
The responses are both challenging and affirming in ways that can be as informative as the experiences I’ve written.
Sara Bivigou’s "The Bad Blood,” about living with sickle cell anemia, is compelling in that it humanizes a disease that disproportionately affects black people while heartbreakingly describing the ways people with chronic illness "cheat" themselves into behaving as though they're well.
Saeed Jones’ “How Men Fight For Their Lives,” written in 2012, before he was a National Book Critics Circle finalist, PEN Award winner, Buzzfeed’s literary editor, or publishing a memoir, was first published at The Rumpus as a standalone personal essay.
In a 2011 Publishers Weekly profile of 11 agents and editors of color, only one indicated that he’s looking for memoir submissions. But if publication of memoirs by women of color lags significantly behind those penned by white women, the disparity is even wider for black mothers. Tharps, author of Kinky Gazpacho: Love, Life and Spain, approached her agent with the idea of writing a mommy memoir.
[...] "She told me, 'Please don't do that.'" The market was glutted with these books, the agent lamented—and Tharps [...] let it go.