Morgan Jerkins on her debut novel, Caul Baby

“I don’t know this woman, I don’t like this woman, but I understand this woman,” says author Morgan Jerkins of what she wants her readers to takeaway from reading the complex, challenging women who make up her debut novel l Caul Baby (Harper 2021).

In this episode, essayist, memoirist, and, now, novelist Morgan Jerkins sits down with Lissa Jones. She discusses her inspirations for this story, both from her past (as a teenager she worked in her father’s OB/GYN practice) and present (she tells us her character Amara was inspired by Vice President Kamala Harris). Though Caul Baby is a work of fiction with hints of magical realism, it is deeply rooted in the experiences of Black womanhood.

Morgan Jerkins is the author of Wandering in Strange Lands (HarperCollins 2020) and the New York Times bestseller This Will Be My Undoing (HarperCollins 2018) and a Senior Culture Editor at ESPN’s The Undefeated. Jerkins is a visiting professor at Columbia University and a Forbes 30 Under 30 leader in media, and her short-form work has been featured in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Elle, Esquire, and the Guardian, among many other outlets. She is based in Harlem. More information about her work can be found on her website.

Episode 57 – Morgan Jerkins on her debut novel Caul Baby

Essayist, memoirist, and, now, novelist Morgan Jerkins sits down with Lissa Jones. She discusses her inspirations for this story, both from her past (as a teenager she worked in her father’s OB/GYN practice) and present (she tells us her character Amara was inspired by Vice President Kamala Harris).

What are you reading ?

As we ask all our guests, we asked: What are your reading? In the episode, Morgan tells us she’s reading God of Mercy by Okezie Nwoka which is set to be released by Penguin Random House this fall.

Go Deeper: Additional Materials

Read: Jerkins discusses the role of disparities in maternal and infant mortality rates for Black mothers in the writing of her novel – and in her own thinking about motherhood. This article from The Washington Post highlights these disparities as well as the benefits to mothers and children when they are cared for by Black doctors.

Mortality rate for Black babies is cut dramatically when Black doctors care for them after birth, researchers say

Rachel Hardeman has dedicated her career to fighting racism and the harm it has inflicted on the health of Black Americans. As a reproductive health equity researcher, she has been especially disturbed by the disproportionately high mortality rates for Black babies.

Read: Place, and specifically Harlem, is central to the story in Caul Baby. In this article, Jerkins discusses her own complicated role as a Black gentrifier in Harlem.

I’m a black gentrifier in Harlem – and it’s not a good feeling

The other day, I was walking back to my Harlem apartment when I stumbled upon a very shocking sign in front of a black church. It read: NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority), Funerals, Beauty Parlors Will Close in Harlem. Make room for sodomite gentrifiers. Have a nice day niggers!

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