Negroland: Book summary and reviews of Negroland by Margo Jefferson

Negroland

A Memoir

by Margo Jefferson

Negroland by Margo Jefferson X
Negroland by Margo Jefferson
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2015
    256 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

At once incendiary and icy, mischievous and provocative, celebratory and elegiac—here is a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, and American culture through the prism of the author's rarefied upbringing and education among a black elite concerned with distancing itself from whites and the black generality while tirelessly measuring itself against both.

A New York Times: 100 Notable Books of 2015
New York Times: Dwight Garner's Best Books of 2015
Washington Post: 10 Best Books of 2015
Los Angeles Times: 31 Best Nonfiction Books of 2015
Marie Claire: Best Books of 2015
Vanity Fair: Best Book Gifts of 2015
 
Born in upper-crust black Chicago—her father was for years head of pediatrics at Provident, at the time the nation's oldest black hospital; her mother was a socialite—Margo Jefferson has spent most of her life among (call them what you will) the colored aristocracy, the colored elite, the blue-vein society. Since the nineteenth century they have stood apart, these inhabitants of Negroland, "a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty."
 
Reckoning with the strictures and demands of Negroland at crucial historical moments—the civil rights movement, the dawn of feminism, the fallacy of postracial America—Jefferson brilliantly charts the twists and turns of a life informed by psychological and moral contradictions. Aware as it is of heart-wrenching despair and depression, this book is a triumphant paean to the grace of perseverance.

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Book Awards

  • award image National Book Critics Circle Award, 2015

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Powerful and complicated .. There's sinew and grace in the way she plays with memory, dodging here and burning there, like a photographer in a darkroom. - The New York Times

"Jefferson is a national treasure and her memoir should be required reading across the country." - Vanity Fair

"Powerful. ... Margo Jefferson identifies and deftly explores the tensions that come with being party of America's black elite." - O, The Oprah Magazine

"Razor sharp, self-lacerating and singular." - More Magazine

"A candid observer, Jefferson articulates the complicated and calculated performance of upper-class black life." - New York Magazine

"Treads briskly and fearlessly across the treacherous terrain of race, class, gender and entitlement in this tightly edited memoir that recalls her youth in 1950s and 60s Chicago... [Jefferson] is a poetic and bracing memoirist... Lean, specific and personal ... enlightening." - The Washington Post

"A nuanced meditation from a life lived in the upper echelons of Chicago's black bourgeoisie, beginning before the civil-rights era and trailing off in our still-conflicted present." - Vulture

"Jefferson's descriptions of how she 'craved' the right to despair are some of the most haunting parts of the book." - Time

"Poignant... In Negroland, Jefferson is simultaneously looking in and looking out at her blackness, elusive in her terse, evocative reconnaissance, leaving us yearning to know more." - Los Angeles Times

"A veritable library of African-American letters and a sumptuous compendium of elegant style... [Jefferson] paints her rich inner and outer landscape with deft, impressionistic strokes. It's a technique that disrupts convention—which is her privilege after all." - The Boston Globe

"[Negroland] shines a spotlight on a fascinating slice of the American experience of which many people are barely aware." - Tampa Bay Times

"Vibrant... lyrical." - Minneapolis Star-Tribune

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More Information

The winner of a Pulitzer Prize for criticism, Margo Jefferson was for years a theater and book critic for Newsweek and The New York Times. Her writing has appeared in, among other publications, Vogue, New York magazine, and The New Republic. She is the author of On Michael Jackson and is a professor of writing at Columbia University School of the Arts.

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