Journalist and host Don Lemon opened up about his newly released book This Is The Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism.
During an interview with PEOPLE, the CNN anchor discussed the book and the deeper meaning behind it. He shared James Baldwin‘s essay collection The Fire Next Time served as his core inspiration.
“When James Baldwin said, ‘No more water the fire next time’ — we’re in the fire. And I think we don’t have any more fires,” he remarked. “So we need to put this one out. We need to deal with this one.”
He continued, “That book is filled with passion. I feel like James Baldwin, that book just kind of rolled out of him in like, a night or two. … That is the same sort of thing, and I think the way, the most honest way that I can be, is just to say it, right?”
The report continues to describe both the details and differences in the two works, including some structural commonalities. Lemon’s This Is The Fire is a combination of memoir, journalism, and research, speaking to his personal experience with racism as well as the history of the United States.
“When you think about all the factors that come together that make me Don Lemon — I’m a Black, gay man, American, who has suffered discrimination, obviously, and who has a platform as the only person of color in primetime … I have done things on television in this platform that other people have not dared to do and still weather the storm,” said the 55-year-old journalist.
“It’s where I am right now, and that’s why I’m proud. And that’s why I feel like I can speak in this book with some authority.”
This Is The Fire was published by Little, Brown and Company on March 16. The author also shared his excitement for readers to finish, no matter their reaction.
“I’m excited about the process of this book being out there. I’m excited about the process of people reading it,” Lemon said to PEOPLE. “I’m also excited about the process of how people experience it and whether that is positively or negatively, it matters not to me. What matters is that — do you have an experience that they can have a discussion with?”
The book is described by the publishing company as follows:
“Beginning with a letter to one of his Black nephews, he proceeds with reporting and reflections on his slave ancestors, his upbringing in the shadows of segregation, and his adult confrontations with politicians, activists, and scholars. In doing so, Lemon offers a searing and poetic ultimatum to America.
He visits the slave port where a direct ancestor was shackled and shipped to America. He recalls a slave uprising in Louisiana, just a few miles from his birthplace. And he takes us to the heart of the 2020 protests in New York City. As he writes to his young nephew: We must resist racism every single day. We must resist it with love.”
Lemon announced a virtual book tour for the release with a schedule that has nine events across multiple arenas from March through May 2021.
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