Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Margo Jefferson  

Pen Name: None

Genre:

Born: in Chicago, Illinois

Sites:

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Illinois Connection

Jefferson is a Chicago native.

Biographical and Professional Information

Margo Jefferson is a Pulitzer Prize winning author for criticism. She has served as book and arts critic for Newsweek and the New York Times. Her writing has appeared in, among other publications, Vogue, New York Magazine, The Nation, and Guernica. Her memoir, Negroland, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. She is also the author of On Michael Jackson and is a professor of writing at Columbia University School of the Arts in New York City.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Negroland: A Memoir
ISBN: 0307473430

Vintage. 2016

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

Winner of the Heartland Prize

A New York Times Notable Book


One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Time, Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, Time Out New York, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Kansas City Star, Men’s Journal, Oprah.com



Pulitzer Prize–winning cultural critic Margo Jefferson was born in 1947 into upper-crust black Chicago. Her father was head of pediatrics at Provident Hospital, while her mother was a socialite. In these pages, Jefferson takes us into this insular and discerning society: “I call it Negroland,” she writes, “because I still find ‘Negro’ a word of wonders, glorious and terrible.”

Negroland’s pedigree dates back generations, having originated with antebellum free blacks who made their fortunes among the plantations of the South. It evolved into a world of exclusive sororities, fraternities, networks, and clubs—a world in which skin color and hair texture were relentlessly evaluated alongside scholarly and professional achievements, where the Talented Tenth positioned themselves as a third race between whites and “the masses of Negros,” and where the motto was “Achievement. Invulnerability. Comportment.” At once incendiary and icy, mischievous and provocative, celebratory and elegiac, Negroland is a landmark work on privilege, discrimination, and the fallacy of post-racial America.

On Michael Jackson
ISBN: 0307277658

Vintage. 2007

Michael Jackson was once universally acclaimed as a song-and-dance man of genius

Wacko Jacko is now, more often than not, dismissed for his bizarre race and gender transformations and confounding antics, even as he is commonly reviled for the child molestation charges twice brought against him. Whence the weirdness and alleged criminality? How to account for Michael Jackson’s rise and fall? In On Michael Jackson—an at once passionate, incisive, and bracing work of cultural analysis—Pulitzer Prize–winning critic for The New York Times Margo Jefferson brilliantly unravels the complexities of one of the most enigmatic figures of our time.

Who is Michael Jackson and what does it mean to call him a “What Is It”? What do P. T. Barnum, Peter Pan, and Edgar Allan Poe have to do with our fascination with Jackson? How did his curious Victorian upbringing and his tenure as a child prodigy on the “chitlin’ circuit” inform his character and multiplicity of selves? How is Michael Jackson’s celebrity related to the outrageous popularity of nineteenth-century minstrelsy? What is the perverse appeal of child stars for grown-ups and what is the price of such stardom for these children and for us? What uncanniness provoked Michael Jackson to become “Alone of All His Race, Alone of All Her Sex,” while establishing himself as an undeniably great performer with neo-Gothic, dandy proclivities and a producer of visionary music videos? What do we find so unnerving about Michael Jackson’s presumed monstrosity? In short, how are we all of us implicated?

In her stunning first book, Margo Jefferson gives us the incontrovertible lowdown on call-him-what-you-wish

she offers a powerful reckoning with a quintessential, richly allusive signifier of American society and popular culture.


Awards

-- Negroland

Winner, National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, 2016

Winner, Heartland Prize

Notable Book, New York Times

Best Books of the Year List, The Washington Post

Best Books of the Year List, Los Angeles Times

Best Books of the Year List, Time

Best Books of the Year List, Vanity Fair

Best Books of the Year List, Marie Claire

Best Books of the Year List, Time Out New York

Best Books of the Year List, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Best Books of the Year List, Kansas City Star

Best Books of the Year List, Men’s Journal

Best Books of the Year List, Oprah