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A deeply felt meditation on race, sex and American culture - at once incendiary and icy, mischievous and provocative, celebratory and elegiac.
The daughter of a successful paediatrician and a fashionable socialite, Margo Jefferson spent her childhood among Chicago's Black elite. She calls this society 'Negroland': 'a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty'. With privilege came expectation.
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.
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- Nicole Bond
Sarcastic, Informative and Engaging
Negroland is part memoir, part historical expose and part critique of the social and economic mores of each era of the black experience from slavery, to segregation, to modern life. In particular it examines the rise of the black elite class and the pressures and prejudices faced as they seek to inspire each generation to maintain high standards of excellence and achievement, in a society that doesn’t quite see them as equals. Ms. Jefferson is from this class of black elites, and she relates this experience to her family life and how it shaped her consciousness from childhood to adulthood.
At times I almost wanted to stop listening to this audio book, as it was rife with sarcasm. I get that the sarcastic tone was useful in pointing out the foibles, shallowness, hypocrisy and idiosyncrasies in the way this class of elite blacks viewed themselves and other members of the race who were less affluent and sophisticated. The sarcastic tone also underscored her description how these elites tried to make successful and comfortable lives for themselves, in order to better protect against, and even coexist with, the injustices and unfairness of racism. Sarcasm is liberally used in Ms. Jefferson’s illustration of the entitlement meted out by whites, to this social class of black elites.
The sarcasm was so overwrought though, that at times it came across as mean spirited, petty, racist, and even apologist, as if Ms. Jefferson was trying to excuse herself from her own black elite origins.
Despite the fact that the sarcasm was a major distraction, I’m glad I decided to persevere with Negroland. It turned out to be informative and engaging overall.