A Memoir

Book - 2015 | First edition
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"At once incendiary and icy, mischievous, and provocative, celebratory and elegiac, 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 to distance itself from whites and the black generality, while tirelessly measuring itself against both. Born in 1947 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 post-racial 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. 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 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"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, ©2015
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780307378453
Branch Call Number: 305.896073 JEF 2015
Characteristics: 248 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 22 cm
Alternative Title: Negro land : a memoir


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Jan 23, 2019

I found the book disjointed and somewhat hard to follow. She had some very interesting things to say, and once I approached the book as a series of essays or musings, it was a little easier. There's just no narrative.

Chapel_Hill_MarthaW Jan 08, 2019

I think this works well as an introduction to the black upper class if you know nothing about that world, and the ways that race, gender, and class intersect in this book are fascinating. Having said that, I think an even better introduction to this rarefied world can be found in Lawrence Graham’s “Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class”, so I might actually recommend readers start there before progressing to this book.

Mar 10, 2018

This is Jefferson's memoir of growing up in the rarified world of the black bourgeoisie in Chicago, the daughter of a doctor and the rise of the civil rights movement, Black Power and feminism. It presents a view from this small slice of society, from which the author never really frees herself. The book is interesting and very well-written.

Jul 17, 2017

I think the book is well-written. Ms. Jefferson is definitely a skilled writer. She's also able to extend her insiders' knowledge in a clever and creative manner. I like that she makes observations rather than definitive statements. The only thing I was hoping for more of from her was vulnerability.

Dec 27, 2016

Margo Jefferson, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for criticism, has penned a book that is part memoir, part cultural critique of American race, class, and gender. She recounts her family's history as part of the "Talented Tenth", the upper-class black society that saw itself as neither black nor white but rather as a "third race". As an "integrationist", Jefferson had a bird's-eye view of the many ideas, philosophies, and methods from her girlhood in the 1950's through the turbulent Civil Rights era to today's social media campaigns. Along the way, the reader catches glimpses of society's contradictions and morals as well as short biographies of the amazing women who were her ancestors. Jefferson writes, near the end of her story, "I won't trap myself into quantifying which matters more, race, or gender, or class."

LPL_DirectorBrad Feb 21, 2016

It's pointless for me to attempt to describe what I found so great about this book. I encourage you to pick up this book and enter Margo Jefferson's world yourself. I cannot speak for her. She writes deftly about race, class, gender, and identity. A must read book from 2015.

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