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 the author'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--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.(With 8 pages of black-and-white photographs.)From the Hardcover edition.
Michael Jackson was once universally acclaimed as a song-and-dance man of genius; Wacko Jacko is now, more often than not, dismissed for his bizarre race and gender transformations and confounding antics, even as he is commonly reviled for the child molestation charges twice brought against him. Whence the weirdness and alleged criminality? How to account for Michael Jackson's rise and fall? InOn Michael Jackson--an at once passionate, incisive, and bracing work of cultural analysis--Pulitzer Prize-winning critic forThe New York Times Margo Jeffersonbrilliantly unravels the complexities of one of the most enigmatic figures of our time. Who is Michael Jackson and what does it mean to call him a "What Is It"? What do P. T. Barnum, Peter Pan, and Edgar Allan Poe have to do with our fascination with Jackson? How did his curious Victorian upbringing and his tenure as a child prodigy on the "chitlin' circuit" inform his character and multiplicity of selves? How is Michael Jackson's celebrity related to the outrageous popularity of nineteenth-century minstrelsy? What is the perverse appeal of child stars for grown-ups and what is the price of such stardom for these children and for us? What uncanniness provoked Michael Jackson to become "Alone of All His Race, Alone of All Her Sex," while establishing himself as an undeniably great performer with neo-Gothic, dandy proclivities and a producer of visionary music videos? What do we find so unnerving about Michael Jackson's presumed monstrosity? In short, how are we all of us implicated? In her stunning first book, Margo Jefferson gives us the incontrovertible lowdown on call-him-what-you-wish; she offers a powerful reckoning with a quintessential, richly allusive signifier of American society and popular culture. From the Hardcover edition.
Who was the turn-of-the-century hipster? Who is free enough of the hipster taint to write this history without contempt or nostalgia? Why are we tempted to declare the neo-hipster moment over, when the hipster's "global brand" has just reached its apotheosis? A panel of n+1 writers, including Mark Greif, Christian Lorentzen, and Jace Clayton (aka dj/rupture) invited the public to join an investigation into the rise and fall of the contemporary hipster. Their debate took place at the New School University in New York City, and was followed by articles, responses, and essays, all printed here for the first time. "The hipster is that person, overlapping with declassing or disaffiliating groupings-the starving artist, the starving graduate student, the neo-bohemian, the vegan or bicyclist or skatepunk, the would-be blue-collar or post-racial individual-who in fact aligns himself both with rebel subculture and with the dominant class, and opens up a poisonous conduit between the two." "Isn't hipsterism, like, the best thing that's happened at the end of the Bush years?" "The truth was that there was no culture worth speaking of, and the people called hipsters just happened to be young, and more often than not, funny looking."