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When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost

A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down

About The Book

“Morgan has given an entire generation of Black feminists space and language to center their pleasures alongside their politics.” —Janet Mock, New York Times bestselling author of Redefining Realness

“All that and then some, Chickenheads informs and educates, confronts and charms, raises the bar high by getting down low, and, to steal my favorite Joan Morgan phrase, bounced me out of the room.” —Marlon James, Man Booker Prize–winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

Still as fresh, funny, and ferociously honest as ever, this piercing meditation on the fault lines between hip-hop and feminism captures the most intimate thoughts of the post-Civil Rights, post-feminist, post-soul generation.

Award-winning journalist Joan Morgan offers a provocative and powerful look into the life of the modern Black woman: a complex world in which feminists often have not-so-clandestine affairs with the most sexist of men, where women who treasure their independence frequently prefer men who pick up the tab, where the deluge of babymothers and babyfathers reminds Black women who long for marriage that traditional nuclear families are a reality for less than forty percent of the population, and where Black women are forced to make sense of a world where truth is no longer black and white but subtle, intriguing shades of gray.

Reading Group Guide

When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost
1. Morgan says that, more than any other generation before, this generation needs a feminism committed to "keeping it real." How does this translate day-to-day, person-to-person? Is it possible for a woman to be a good feminist and not pay for her own dinner, not hold the door open, or not become a master mechanic, as Morgan's feminism prescribes? Are you a feminist? What does Morgan mean when she says that "the empowerment of the black community [has] to include its women" or that "sexism [stands] stubbornly in the way of black men and women loving each other or sistas loving themselves"?
2. Hip-hop and rap have come under attack lately on many fronts. Is it possible to like this music despite the fact that it contains so much misogyny? Are you able to listen to the music and use it as a tool to understand how the community works, as Morgan advocates, or would it be better to silence its violent content?
3. Morgan says, "We're all winners when space exists for brothers to honestly state and explore the roots of their pain and subsequently their misogyny, sans judgment." Besides rap and hip-hop, what are some effective ways, or forums, in which black men and women can "lovingly address the uncomfortable issues of [their] failing self-esteem, the ways [they] sexualize and objectify [themselves, and their] confusion about sex and love"? How about ways to address the "unhealthy, unloving, unsisterly" ways black women treat one another? What are some things you regret doing, and how would you change your words and actions?
4. The author says that, by consenting to appear in raunchy music videos, certain women only promote sexist images of themselves and that there will always be women who trade on their sexuality to get the person (or the "protection, wealth, and power") they want. Do you agree that young black women share in the responsibility for hip-hop's antiwomen attitudes? Do you believe that women who value their erotic power over all else stand to seriously damage their self-esteem? Are there other ways, besides trading on sex, to attract the opposite sex? Is there a bit of Chickenhead in all of us?
5. What do you think of Morgan's notion that the popular urban myth of the "ENDANGEREDBLACKMAN" (EBM) should also apply to black women, who suffer from breast cancer and AIDS and poverty and incarceration at rates much greater than white women? What does Morgan mean when she states that ENDANGEREDBLACKMEN "succumb to being ENDANGERED" and that "EBM are wholly incompatible with daughters raised to be strong women"?
6. Does the notion of the "STRONGBLACKWOMAN" empower you or oppress you? Do you agree that contemporary black women perpetuate the myth of the STRONGBLACKWOMAN to boost their fractured self-esteems? How do they do this? Do you believe that black men are less capable of surviving the afflictions of life than black women?
7. Throughout the book, the author emphasizes that lack of respect is a problem that plagues the black community. Do black women love, yet not respect, black men? What do you think of Morgan's idea that women shouldn't spend time with other women who don't respect men and that "participating sessions means...commiserating with sistas who are just as clueless as [you are] about how to have a healthy relationship"?
8. Since black women have provided everything for their families for so long, is there any room to believe that men can be relied on and won't drop the ball? What can mothers do to affect their sons' abilities to respect women? Author Marita Golden says, "The generations-old backlog of anger that African-American men and women hoard and revisit and unleash upon one another...becomes a script that our sons and daughters memorize....Only when our sons and daughters know that forgiveness is real, existent, and that those who love them practice it, can they form bonds as men and women that really can save and change our community." How can we practice forgiving one another? Can you forgive someone today?
9. Morgan implies that one of the reasons there are so many black women heading single-parent families is because they feel they have little chance of being a part of a traditional two-parent family. Do you agree? Is having a child something you have to do because you have no choice? Do you agree that people should be having discussions with their partners about whether or not they want to have children before they sleep together? If they can't even discuss it, should they even be having sex? What are some ways two people can open a dialogue about this?
10. What are "male reproductive rights"? Why is it so easy to condemn men for not offering full support when they find out that a woman they've been with is pregnant? Can you imagine what it would be like to be pregnant by a man whose child you don't want but he does, and to not have any say about it?
11. Morgan was told that black women don't have time for feminism (or don't "have time for all that shit," to be exact). Where does this ambivalence toward feminism come from? Is it an outgrowth of "black women's historic tendency to blindly defend any black man who seems to be under attack from white folks"? Do you agree that "acknowledging the rampant sexism in [the black] community...means relinquishing the comforting illusion that black men and women are a unified front"?
12. In the chapter "STRONGBLACKWOMEN," the author shares a Yoruba fable that helped her figure out what she needed to make her happy. Have you had to learn how to put your needs first, as Morgan did? Can you share some ways that you have done this?

About The Author

Photo Credit:

A pioneering hip-hop journalist and award-winning feminist author, Joan Morgan coined the term “hip-hop feminism” in 1999 with the publication of When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, which is now studied at colleges across the country. She is currently the program director of the Center for Black Visual Culture at NYU.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 25, 2017)
  • Length: 240 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439127407

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Raves and Reviews

“Master storyteller Joan Morgan navigates the torrid waters of gender, race, and power with grace, humor, and, most of all, love.”
—Daniel José Older, New York Times bestselling author of the Shadowshaper series

“Joan Morgan stripped feminism of its basic Black and Whiteness—redressed it in her own beautiful, badass, complicated, challenging, shades-of-gray couture criticism. Before it was popular to be ‘out’ as an unapologetic, magic, hood-loving, imperfect, sexy-ass, Black feminist, Joan put it down in Chickenheads, validating a whole generation of fierce young women, just waiting for that brave bitch to fire the shot, so we all could just go.”
—Michaela Angela Davis, CNN and BET correspondent

“Without doubt, Black Women had made meaningful interventions into Feminist Thought before the publication of When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, but none can claim to have done so wearing three-inch pumps, while bumping Heavy D, and sprinkling enough #BlackGirlMagic to conjure a new generation of Black Feminists who give no ‘f*cks’ to those who dare deny the value of a Black Girl’s life and her desires.”
—Mark Anthony Neal, author of Looking for Leroy

“In When Chickheads Come to Roost, Joan Morgan began dismantling the one-dimensional ‘strong Black women’ myth. The unapologetic realness in her essays, even today, are a beacon for young women on the journey of accepting—and celebrating—the beautiful complexities of womanhood.”
—Cori Murray, entertainment director at Essence

“The debt that a generation of writers, thinkers, and activists owe to Joan Morgan is incalculable. Joan gave us permission to ‘fuck with the grays’ and provided the blueprint for an analysis of culture that yields more vibrant and nuanced takes on our humanity. For me, as a man who wants to be challenged to unpack the failures of black men to show up and fight for sisters, the beauty in Joan’s words is that she didn’t stop at their trauma, but allowed us into the world of bountiful, beautiful blackness that black women have lived by. Chickenheads changed the game.”
—Mychal Denzel Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching

“Definitely not your mother’s guide to the Equal Rights Amendment.... Morgan’s reflections are as timely as they are cogent.”
—Kristal Brent Zook, Vibe

“Morgan tussles with the perceived contradictions of being black, female, fly, and feminist—from the myth of the strongblackwoman to chickenhead envy... a fresh alternative to accepted notions about black womanhood.”
—Lori L. Tharps, Ms.

“It’s a bold, cheeky, self-affirming read, and for a black woman in this society, there’s hardly enough affirmation.”
—Martine Bury, Jane

When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost... is gaining nationwide acclaim for adding a fresh, idiosyncratic point of view—the voice of a new generation—to the oft-debated saga. Painstakingly straddling the line which separates street smarts from book intelligence, Morgan offers 240 pages worth of commentary on what it is like for a Black woman to come of age, Gen-X style.... While most Gen-Xers claim to be ‘keepin’ it real,’ Morgan’s new book instead shows that she’s making the conscious choice to ‘keep it right.’ And not only by flipping and bouncing words and phrases that reflect today’s popular culture, this new age feminist shows and proves that the day in which James Brown screams ‘it’s a man’s world’ might be finally coming to a dawn.”
—Michael J. Rochon, Philadelphia Tribune

“A debut collection of impassioned essays, written in poetic, flowing prose.... Fresh and articulate. Steadily perceptive, shrewdly provocative.”
Kirkus Reviews

“[Morgan] brings a powerful voice to concerns of modern black women.”
—Vanessa Bush, Booklist

“As is the case with a lot of Morgan’s work, Chickenheads remains unafraid to ‘go there’ around a few touchy issues.... [The book] will definitely engender passionate discussions among readers.... Regardless of how interpreted, you gotta give it up to this ‘yardie gyal’ from the Bronx who’s brave enough to put her ideas out there so that the rest of us home-grrrls can all together start climbing toward wholeness.”

“Whether one agrees with Morgan or not, the sister definitely makes you think.”
—Ronda Racha Penrice, Rap Pages

“A journalist by trade and outspoken black feminist by inclination, Joan Morgan has style to burn.... When Morgan brings it, she’s funny, fierce, and yes feminist.... Morgan insists that the hip-hop generation can set its own goals—emotional, spiritual, social and political. Time to move on, and Morgan’s leading the way.”
—Cindy Fuchs, Philadelphia City Paper

“It’s refreshing to see Morgan add racial dynamics to the gender- politics Debate.... This book is a postmodern Waiting to Exhale—a romantic melodrama for all the black women who are beautiful, smart, accomplished and not apologizing for any man who can’t get his act together.... Morgan is a credible independent spirit and autonomous woman.”
—Caille Millner, San Jose Mercury News

“Joan Morgan has undertaken the necessary and painstaking task of navigating the world of Black Male/Female relationships. You go Joan! I saw myself in this book. Thank you for making me stop and think and reciprocate love.”
—Ananda Lewis

“Everything you want to know about the sisters—and then some.”
—Sean “Puffy” Combs

“Joan Morgan writes with passion, pain, and a charming playfulness about the fun and games of African-American life in the nineties.”
—Nelson George, author of Hip Hop America

“Strong, soft, wise, and right on the beat with much flava to savor.”
—Fab 5 Freddy

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