Another country

My Times review [£] of Margo Jefferson’s account of growing up in the African-American upper class:

negorlandHere is a corner of life that normally goes unseen. We hear so much about race in America — almost every week, it seems, some media outlet wants to start a “conversation” on the subject — that we assume there is nothing left to say. Margo Jefferson’s memoir, coy and self-conscious though it may be at times, is a reminder that there are aspects that transcend the simple framework of black versus white.

A former critic with The New York Times, Jefferson belongs to that sliver of upper-middle-class black society that used to call itself “the Talented Tenth”. These were the people who saw themselves as the enlightened, educated minority, who would be the vanguard for their less privileged brothers and sisters. “We were the third race,” Jefferson writes. “We cared for our people — but we refused to be held back by the lower element. We did not love white people, we did not care for most of them, but we envied them and sometimes we feared and hated them.”

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