I’ve had the privilege of knowing Margo Jefferson since 2011, when I took her class, The Critic As Artist, as a student in Columbia’s graduate writing programme. I’d thought I knew all there was to know about Walter Benjamin, until she had us read Berlin Childhood Around 1900, where I was introduced to the idea that a writer’s life was worthy of detailed study; that it can illuminate their work when placed alongside it. It was to my great surprise and delight when, in her 2015 memoir Negroland, Jefferson placed her own life — a childhood in Chicago’s black elite and an accomplished adulthood in journalism (she won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1995) — under the scan of her unrelenting eye. When it was published, I had been out of grad school a couple of years, had moved away and hadn’t seen her for as long, though I had already torn through her first book, On Michael Jackson, after reading everything of hers I could find online. Reading Negroland was like opening a portal into her mind, and just like Benjamin’s Berlin Childhood, it offered new insights into a thinker I thought I already knew. It also taught me something about myself as a woman and a writer. I was so excited by it that I couldn’t wait until I’d finished reading to tell her how much I loved it. ‘It makes sense,’ I wrote to her in an email, ‘that in your memoir you would act as a critic — as black women, we are constantly forced to see ourselves through others’ eyes, and thus become critics of our own lives. This is something I have always felt on some level, but confronted it in your book as plain truth.’ Jefferson’s work has not only challenged me to think about works of art more deeply, but to do the same in regards to my own life. For that, I, and her many readers, will always be grateful.