Constructing a Nervous System
FROM THE PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING CRITIC AND ACCLAIMED AUTHOR OF NEGROLAND
Shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize 2022
Shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize for Non-Fiction 2023
‘This is one of the most imaginative – and therefore moving – memoirs I have ever read’ – Vivian Gornick, author of Fierce Attachments
Margo 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
Electric [Jefferson] 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 * Margo Jefferson has created a startling and digressive form of auto-analysis... an intimate view of the aesthetic and political landscape of American culture and the secrets, longing, withholding and disavowal necessary to imagine oneself inside it and ward off its damage -- Saidiya Hartman * author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments * She knows everything and has felt it all deeply. If you want to know who we are and where we've been, read Margo Jefferson -- Edmund White * author of A Previous Life * Margo Jefferson is one of our most nuanced thinkers on the intersections of race, class, and feminism. Her latest Constructing a Nervous System is especially alive is both spiky and supple; jagged -- Cathy Park Hong * New York Times bestselling author of Minor Feelings * This is one of the most imaginative-and therefore moving-memoirs I have ever read -- Vivian Gornick * author of Fierce Attachments * Jefferson is as precise and sensitive as ever, nonpareil in her scope and ability to synthesize the circus of traditions, arcs, and performances that make up a life -- Most Anticipated Books of 2022 * Vulture * 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 Pickney * author of Sold and Gone * A tour-de-force of personal narrative -- Keziah Weir * Vanity Fair *
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