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In ‘Negroland,’ one is always a symbol

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Interview. We spoke with the writer Margo Jefferson, whose memoir ‘Negroland’ captures the ‘contradiction, ambivalence and vulnerability’ of being a black woman in America.

written by Guido Caldiron

Also filed under culture

June 9, 2018

An unusual memoir, capable of sudden ironic flashes, built around linguistic research and a narrative style that recalls the passing of time, Negroland can be read as an extraordinary history book that acutely examines memory and its inescapable relationship with the present. In reconstructing the vicissitudes of the black upper middle class of Chicago, Margo Jefferson not only traces the history of her family, but the generations that followed from the time of slavery to the season of civil rights.

The most intimate moments, the pages of a domestic diary squared to show traces of inner wounds, are thus inextricably intertwined with a collective memory: the history of the country itself has traced in an equally indelible way on the lives and bodies of a part of the Americans. Jefferson builds an exciting and unforgettable text and proposes us, even with obvious differences to authors such as Paul Beatty and Ta-Nehisi Coates, a decisive page in the path of black America.

Your book suggests that when we talk about ‘race’ in the United States we are actually also talking about gender and class. Does Negroland help us to look into the Chinese boxes of multiple oppressions and their interweaving?

That was exactly what I wanted to explain. I have called race, gender and class my (and our) “laic triad.” There is no need to talk about racial status, racial discrimination and oppression, racial struggles and possible results without analyzing these details. When we ignore them, we are referring to simplistic ideas. Legal, cultural,........

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