FROM THE PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING CRITIC AND ACCLAIMED AUTHOR OF NEGROLAND’This is one of the most imaginative – and therefore moving – memoirs I have ever read’ – Vivian Gornick, author of Fierce AttachmentsMargo Jefferson boldly and brilliantly fuses cultural analysis and memoir to probe race, class, family and art. Taking in the jazz and blues icons whom Jefferson idolised as a child in the 1950s, ideas of what the female body could be – as incarnated by trailblazing Black dancers and athletes – Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Topsy reimagined in the artworks of Kara Walker, white supremacy in the novels of Willa Cather, and more, this breathtakingly eloquent account is both a critique and a vindication of the constructed self. ‘Margo Jefferson’s Constructing a Nervous System is as electric as its title suggests.
It takes vital risks, tosses away rungs of the ladder as it climbs, and offers an indispensable, rollicking account of the enchantments, pleasures, costs, and complexities of “imagin[ing] and interpret[ing] what had not imagined you’ – Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts’If you want to know who we are and where we’ve been, read Margo Jefferson’ – Edmund White, author of A Previous Life’This is a moving portrait of the life of a brilliant African American woman’s mind. Margo Jefferson is so real, her sensibility so literary, her learning such a joy. The gifts of reading her are many’ – Darryl Pinckney, author of Sold and Gone