Ella fitzgerald

Ethel, Ella and all that jazz: the soundtrack of a Chicago childhood

Margo Jefferson’s Constructing a Nervous System compresses memoir and cultural criticism into one slim, explosive volume, and in doing so the Pulitzer Prize-winning author makes both forms new. Hers is a wry, intimate portrayal of a passionate and intellectual woman coming to maturity: ‘Older women’s tales… are hard to pull off,’ she writes: ‘They risk being arch.’ But Jefferson is never arch. Her eye is too keen and her aim too true. She turns her clear gaze and razor-sharp intellect on America past and present, where freedoms are skewed and limited by race and gender. The book is about the second half of a life, which is where the real