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Negroland  By  cover art

Negroland

By: Margo Jefferson
Narrated by: Robin Miles
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Publisher's Summary

National Book Critics Circle Award winner, Autobiography, 2015.

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 19th 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 heart-wrenching despair and depression, this book is a triumphant paean to the grace of perseverance. 

©2015 Margo Jefferson (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about Negroland

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    4 out of 5 stars
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ARE YOU BLACK ENOUGH

Are you black enough? Are you white enough? Are you female enough? Are you male enough? Are you American enough? Margo Jefferson’s memoir is a perspective on growing up in America. Jefferson is born in 1947. She is raised in Chicago by two professional middle class parents; i.e. one is a doctor; the other a teacher. What makes Jefferson’s memoir interesting is her middle class upbringing. It sharply defines answers to many questions rarely asked by Americans.

Jefferson wrestles with many of the same baby to teenage insecurities all Americans face in their generation. However, there is an extra layer of complexity for Jefferson because of her color. Jefferson lightly touches on the history of slavery and its societal consequence, but she personalizes that history in explaining how she became Margo Jefferson, an accomplished theatre critic, and professor.

Larry Wilmore, a comedian, is unfairly criticized for his tart-tongued stand-up comment about Barack Obama, unless thought of in light of Jefferson’s memoir. The last part of Wilmore’s presentation seriously praises Obama’s accomplishment and then uses a pejorative word for black Americans to categorize Obama. Wilmore’s comment seems badly interpreted. Wilmore is saying Obama is great enough to be both the President of the United States (in the sense of acceptance by all Americans) and black (in the sense of being accepted by blacks). Jefferson’s memoir, and Wilmore’s routine show that being American enough, black enough, white enough, male or female enough, is just being a part of the human race.

17 people found this helpful

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liked the memoir needed the dictionary handy

I consider myself in between the "hood" and negroland. I am a Black woman fair complexion but with unmistakable black features (long but not "good" hair, thin lips but broad nose... ). I am masters level educated yet I my friends and family are largely high school educated and have no "professiinal connections; nor have they been groomed by parents in social graces.
I am a professional yet I still maintain work (part time) in a field I trained into from the military more than 25 years ago.

I found it difficult to stay interested in this story as written and as narrated. I wondered if the audience for this book was for high brow intellectual who could easily navigate without having to seek intent and understanding of vocabulary. quite often. this was a group choice of which I am the only one of 12 to finish the entire read (including some intellectuals...lol )
however, I have always been interested in class issues within groups; especially African Americans.. this memoir provided another unique view from a member of the "upper" class Black folks. I did find her thoughts, recollections and insights. very insightful.
as for the narrator, I love her acting but for t h is book I did I'd not like the fit. purely a personal preference as others had no problem with it.

14 people found this helpful

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Growing up in a privileged Black society.

Margo Jefferson presents her life as a child raised by successful Black parents in what is still a white world. There were so many requirements of her childhood - etiquette, poise, dress, behavior, education, lessons, summer camp, clubs, neighborhood, friends, and more - that it seems impossible to do anything. (Then I recognized many of the same requirements in my blue collar, white childhood.) Of course race was and is, still a deep divide in our country.

As I listened, I saw where despite the family's place in society, race was still an issue which divided them from white society of the same or ever lesser social standing. At the same time, a division existed between them and less successful Black families. Jefferson covers countless situations, rules, slights, mistreatments, and outright prejudice from her childhood until today's world.

What made this book less than stellar was a feeling that it was merely an accounting of a life, rather than a reflection or social commentary. Because of this, the book feels choppy and without direction. It gave me information but no emotional movement. It was sort of a laundry list of her life. By the last couple of chapters, I found it difficult to continue to listen, and my mind kept wandering off.

7 people found this helpful

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An human experience

I recommend this to all peoples. We are all composes of diverse influences. The historical references in this work were most insightful no matter what package you come in. None us exist in a nomothetic

5 people found this helpful

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More than one way to be Black

I started this memoir thinking it would be a shallow read full of pretension. Not so. This author was able to illustrate a life some blacks don't believe exists but does. I see now that while the author was raised with advantages most blacks didn't have at the time, but some of the disadvantages that can come with being black are also visited upon her. Respectability doesn't save her from the same prejudices and obstacles other blacks face. Especially if others see that not all blacks behave the way you've been taught. Indeed there is more than one way to be black and this is but one way to do it. This is exposure to that life albeit indirect exposure. But if someone's horizon,be it a black person or a Person of another race, is expanded , maybe we won't be so quick to judge by shallow superficial criteria. When I started the memoir I know that I did

5 people found this helpful

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perspective

The book provides an insightful perspective to the historical aspects of African American elite . it also speaks to the duality of being African-American and woman in America.

5 people found this helpful

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Flawed but compelling

I liked some things about this memoir so much that I wish I could rave about how great it is, but the truth is that it is deeply flawed in some ways. Her writing style includes a lot of sentence fragments and numbered episodes and lists without conjunctions, all of which is fine at times, but a little bit goes a long way. By halfway through I was annoyed at her precious prose style. However, the narration by Robin Biles is excellent, and she does a great job with a pretty complicated text.

A bigger issue is that she is often curiously absent from the story of her own life; she often, for example, makes the subject of her sentence "hairstyles" or "dance moves" or "literature" or whatever instead of "my hairstyle" or "my dancing" or "what I was reading." This comes to a head when she starts talking about her own suicidal impulses and even attempts. And "starts talking" is the operative phrase here, because she then quickly goes into stories about other black people's suicides and really never comes back to her own. Seriously? You can't just mention something like that and then drop it! And if you're not ready to talk about your own life, maybe you shouldn't be writing a memoir.

However, there really is much that is good here. Her focus is on the Talented Tenth, the "strivers," the respectable middle class and upper class of black American culture, and that portrait is fascinating. She talks about literature, about music, about history, about her own experiences growing up in the 1950s and then going to college in the 1960s -- the dramatic turnarounds in her own life from her deeply conventional youth to embracing Black Power the next decade. So there's much to like here!

4 people found this helpful

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Reminded me of Chicago, another view!

Any person who grew up in those days will enjoy this book! Thanks for writing it.

4 people found this helpful

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boring

this book was so hard to get through. this author should stick to her day job.

3 people found this helpful

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An Insider's Memoir

This was an engaging read with many surprising twists and turns. I came away with more than I had imagined.

2 people found this helpful