November 14, 2022 7:56 AM EST

Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Margo Jefferson is no stranger to gleaning meaning from cultural moments both big and small. With her second memoir, Constructing a Nervous System, she turns her keen eye on herself and the influences that have shaped the way she sees herself and the world. Though the book—the follow-up to Negroland, which focused on her childhood and coming-of-age—is undeniably autobiographical, it resists the narrative conventions of a traditional memoir. Instead, Jefferson interrogates her place in not only engaging with but also shaping the culture, making for an invigorating examination of the constructs and limitations of identity, especially when it comes to race and class. —Cady Lang

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