Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on September 8th 2015
Buy from IndieBound
It feels like a bit of a disservice to call Negroland a memoir. Though Margo Jefferson’s memories of life as an upper class black child in Chicago fill the pages of the book, the overall effect is much more than what we tend to associate with the format. It is the work of someone who knows and loves poetic voices and has searched for meaning in them her whole life. It picks up history, flows through the past, and draws a direct line to the present.
Jefferson highlights difficult, thought-provoking questions of privilege alongside notes on pop culture and fashion. Yet, everything from the actors she adored as a child to the embarrassment of wearing glasses is explained from her unique perspective. This is most powerful when she touches on her struggle with depression, which she found at odds with the expectations for black women.
“Because our people had endured horrors and prevailed, even triumphed, their descendants should be too strong and too proud for such behavior. We were to be ladies, responsible Negro women, and indomitable Black Women. We were not to be depressed or unduly high-strung; we were not to have nervous collapses. We had a legacy. We were too strong for that.”
Those polarized feelings are at the core of the book, which takes readers into spaces rarely explored and does so in engaging, beautiful prose. Jefferson’s raw reflection and vibrant talent combine to make Negroland a surprising and powerful must-read.