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Extended Audio Sample Negroland: A Memoir Audiobook, by Margo Jefferson Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Margo Jefferson Narrator: Robin Miles Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: December 2015 ISBN: 9781504681537
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At once incendiary and icy, mischievous and provocative, celebratory and elegiac—here is a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, and American culture through the prism of Margo Jefferson’s rarefied upbringing and education among a black elite concerned with distancing itself from whites and the black generality while tirelessly measuring itself against both.

Born in upper-crust black Chicago—her father was for years head of pediatrics at Provident, at the time the nation’s oldest black hospital; her mother was a socialite—Margo Jefferson has spent most of her life among (call them what you will) the colored aristocracy, the colored elite, the blue-vein society. Since the nineteenth century, they have stood apart, these inhabitants of Negroland, “a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty.”

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—Margo Jefferson brilliantly charts the twists and turns of a life informed by psychological and moral contradictions. Aware as it is of heartwrenching despair and depression, this book is a triumphant paean to the grace of perseverance.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Jefferson’s descriptions of how she ‘craved’ the right to despair are some of the most haunting parts of the book.”


  • “Powerful…Deftly explores the tensions that come with being part of America’s black elite.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “Jefferson is a national treasure, and her memoir should be required reading across the country.”

    Vanity Fair

  • “Part memoir, part confession, part cultural critique, and part something that might be called prayer, Negroland is razor sharp, self-lacerating, and singular.”

    More magazine

  • “Chronicles a lifetime as a member of Chicago’s black elite…Once we become accustomed to delicious glimpses of Negroland’s impeccable manners and outfits, the meticulously orchestrated social opportunities, and fastidiously maintained hairstyles, what we begin to notice is the cost and weight of this heavy collective burden…How can a book so slim take on such mammoth considerations and manage them with such efficacy? Perhaps because we gain entry via one girl and, later, the woman she becomes.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Jefferson is simultaneously looking in and looking out at her blackness, elusive in her terse, evocative reconnaissance, leaving us yearning to know more.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Treads briskly and fearlessly across the treacherous terrain of race, class, gender, and entitlement…Negroland is not about raw racism or caricatured villains. It is about subtleties and nuances, presumptions, and slights that chip away at one’s humanity and take a mental toll. It is the story of Jefferson’s evolution, too…Enlightening.”

    Washington Post

  • “Jefferson’s beautiful, unsettling account…may be a story about the past, but her observations on racial tension and prejudice in America ring true today as well. This is not just a book about one woman’s history; it’s a biography of the United States and the everyday struggle for equality.”


  • “A candid observer, Jefferson articulates the complicated and calculated performance of upper-class black life.”

    New York magazine

  • “A beautifully written memoir.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Robin Miles narrates this insightful memoir, which traces the history of the black elite in America…Miles’s narration grows more emotional when the memoir describes Jefferson’s youth in 1950s and ‘60s Chicago. All in all, Miles delivers a fascinating view of black class structure, attitudes on color, civil rights, feminism, privilege, and the fight for equality in white and black society.”


  • “Highly recommended for biography and memoir lovers, historians, and readers interested in psychology and social movements.”

    Library Journal

  • “Jefferson swings the narrative back and forth through her life, exploring the tides of racism, opportunity, and dignity while also provocatively exploring the inherent contradictions for Jefferson and her family members in working so tirelessly to differentiate themselves.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A Kirkus Reviews Pick of 11 Memoirs That Read Better Than a Novel
  • A 2015 Top 10 Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year
  • A 2015 New York Times Book Review Notable Book
  • A Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015 for Nonfiction
  • A New York Times Best Book of 2015
  • A Flavorwire Pick for Best Nonfiction of 2015
  • A BuzzFeed Books Pick for Best Nonfiction of 2015
  • Winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography
  • Winner of the 2016 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize
  • A 2016 Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction Shortlist Selection
  • An Economist Best Book of 2016
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About the Author

Margo Jefferson was for years a theater and book critic for Newsweek and the New York Times, where she won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1995. Her writing has appeared in Vogue, New York, and the New Republic, among other publications. She is the author of On Michael Jackson and is professor of writing at Columbia University School of the Arts.

About the Narrator

Robin Miles, named a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine, has twice won the prestigious Audie Award for Best Narration, an Audie Award for directing, and many Earphones Awards. Her film and television acting credits include The Last Days of Disco, Primary Colors, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order, New York Undercover, National Geographic’s Tales from the Wild, All My Children, and One Life to Live. She regularly gives seminars to members of SAG and AFTRA actors’ unions, and in 2005 she started Narration Arts Workshop in New York City, offering audiobook recording classes and coaching. She holds a BA degree in theater studies from Yale University, an MFA in acting from the Yale School of Drama, and a certificate from the British American Drama Academy in England.