DEAR READER: A Q&A with Morgan Jerkins


Morgan Jerkins is the author of This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America (Harper Perennial), which landed on shelves last month and catapulted onto the New York Times bestseller list. It’s easy to see why: Jerkins is known for her honest, incisive cultural criticism, which has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Atlantic, Lenny, Rolling Stone, and more.

Right before her book tour, Morgan spent a night at Ace Hotel New York as our Dear Reader writer-in-residence. While at Ace, she penned a letter to an imagined audience—a letter that’s been kept secret until today, when it will be placed bedside in each room. We caught up with Morgan to talk discovery, profanity, and the value of a good Spotify playlist.

TIN HOUSE: If you could correspond with any fictional character or literary figure via letters, who would it be? And why? 

MORGAN JERKINS: Jo March from Little Women because I’ve been a fan of her tenacity as a writer since I was a little girl.

 Do you map out your writing, or do you discover your path as you go? How often does your work go in directions you never expected? 

I used to map it out but now I’ve learned to surrender a bit and discover my path as I go. I’ve learned that if I don’t delineate these hard and fast boundaries then my mind will start to reveal things to me as I write.

Dear Reader tasks you with writing for an imagined audience of strangers. How much do you think about your audience when you write? Have you ever been surprised by who is drawn to your work? 

I think about my audience if I want to include profanity in my prose and I guess because I’m an aunt of eight children so I’m always conscious of kids! I’m always shocked when older, white women are drawn to my work.

What’s a book that you wish more people knew about? 

The Face of Another by Abe Kobo.

Do you have any rituals, ceremonies or requirements that accompany your writing process? 

I often pray before I write. I also love to listen to those “Afternoon Acoustic” Spotify playlists.

Dear Reader is a collaboration of Tin House and Ace Hotel New York. You can find this interview and other delights on the Ace Hotel blog.