Negroland by Margo Jefferson [in Library Journal]
“I was taught to avoid showing off,” Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Margo Jefferson (writing, Columbia University; On Michael Jackson) begins. “But isn’t all memoir a form of showing off?” That hesitation permeates throughout, the restraint perfectly mimicked in Robin Miles’s elegant recitation.
This work is a gorgeous examination – personally, socially, historically – of Jefferson’s name “for a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty.” Jefferson uses her own experiences of maturation, accomplishment, and struggle to aim a pointed lens at a racial divide that still excludes more often than it includes, regardless of that privilege and plenty.
At her most vulnerable, she reveals her suicidal depression, which she describes as “one white female privilege … that was glorified in the literature of white female suffering and resistance. A privilege Good Negro Girls had been denied by our history of duty, obligation, and discipline.”
Verdict: Jefferson’s closing words, “Go on…,” are both personal maxim and rallying inducement for every reader. Fans of Ta-Nahesi Coates and Roxane Gay will want to add Jefferson to their listening oeuvre immediately.