- Published: 05/05/2022
- ISBN: 9781783785544
- Granta Books
- 208 pages
Constructing a Nervous System
Shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize 2022
In this intimate and innovative memoir, Pulitzer prize-winning author Margo Jefferson gives us her own personal and intellectual formation.
As she comes of age in an America whose freedoms are distorted by race and gender, she finds herself in a cast of others – jazz luminaries, writers, artists, athletes, and stars. Bing Crosby and Ike Turner are among the author’s alter egos. The sounds of a jazz LP emerge as the intimate and instructive sounds of a parent’s voice. W. E. B. Du Bois and George Eliot meet illicitly. The muscles and movements of a ballerina are spliced with those of an Olympic runner, becoming a template for what a black female body can be.
From Josephine Baker’s radiant transformations, to Willa Cather’s aesthetics of whiteness, Jefferson shows us how we can find space in cultures that will not make room for us, and how, even in times of stricture, we might learn to construct ourselves.
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
From the Same Author
On Michael Jackson
Margo Jefferson on Granta.com
In Conversation | The Online Edition
Leslie Jamison & Margo Jefferson
‘The self is the work of art. Criticism puts that self in the service of other art.’
The authors discuss the multiplicity of the self, the idea of necessity, and how to work with what you lack.
Essays & Memoir | Granta 140
Monster | State of Mind
‘Today’s a day for you to feel blocked and impeded; a coward in work and love; resenting duty; suspecting pleasure.’
Granta Books Writing | Granta Books
Margo Jefferson Reads Kathleen Collins | Podcast
Margo Jefferson & Kathleen Collins
Margo Jefferson reads ‘The Uncle’ by Kathleen Collins, taken from the story collection, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?