Danielle A. Jackson

  • Songs in the Key of Life

    IN AUGUST 1969, the Billboard “Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles” chart was rechristened “Best Selling Soul Singles.” A new type of music had emerged, “the most meaningful development within the broad mass music market within the last decade,” according to the magazine. The genre mystified much of the mainstream press. Publications like Time announced soul music’s birth one year earlier as if it were a phenomenon worthy of both awe and condescension. Its June 1968 issue featured Aretha Franklin as its cover star and called the music “a homely distillation of everybody’s daily portion of pain and joy.”

  • The Other America

    IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION, a significant influence on Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s new memoir American Harvest, the first-century prophet John is beset by visions while in exile. He sees locusts with human faces, a slaughtered lamb, a dragon with seven heads. An angel promises to condemn those who refuse God’s teachings to a fiery abyss and guarantees the return of Jesus after his people have endured a series of trials. In time, the messenger says, the old world of strife will be destroyed, and a new world will replace it. There, God will dwell with his people in peace. “And he carried me away in

  • Invisible Woman

    We often look to novelists to encapsulate a moment, era, or generation. Earlier in the 2010s, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (2013) captured our anxious new millennium and offered wisdom on race, colonialism, capitalism, and immigration. Her literary success gave way to TED Talks, widespread interviews, and a MacArthur Fellowship, among other honors. Despite the breadth of Adichie’s texts, what she became most sought after to comment upon—the lens through which her work was evaluated—was identity.

    A few years later, Sally Rooney’s 2017 debut, Conversations with Friends, and the 2019

  • You Can’t Go Home Again

    The Mississippi River and its tributaries flood perennially. To protect the settlements along its banks, the Army Corps of Engineers created a system of levees and canals that forced the waters to an unnatural course. The Great Flood of 1927 uprooted nearly a million people from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico. It disrupted the Mississippi Delta’s sharecropping economy and, in one of the Great Migration’s largest waves, drove a generation of black strivers from rural life into cities. A wealth of literature immortalized the flood and its aftermath, and elders tallied their losses in oral accounts.