Angela Jackson: Full of Grace

by Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

ajacksonThere was a moment, a very scary moment, when Angela Jackson thought she'd lost her novel. She'd been working on the book for close to 30 years and had poured her soul into the rewrites. Yet somehow she had lost the disks that contained her entire manuscript. She possessed only printouts from previous drafts; each chapter was tucked into a different place in the rambling two-story house she shares with family members on Chicago's South Side.

The dining room table became ground zero when Jackson decided to piece her novel together again. New papers and old papers were laid out, until every inch of the wood was covered in the printed word. A bit of Chapter One was here. Chapter Twelve was there.

"My book had disappeared," says Jackson, now in her 50s. "I took all those versions and laid out all those different chapters until I had it. I had to go into a Zen state of reconstructing my novel."

That was in 1999. This fall TriQuarterly Books, an imprint of Northwestern University Press, published Jackson's first novel, Where I Must Go. The New York Times, among others, immediately took interest in the historically fictionalized tale of Magdalena Grace, an African-American college student in the late 1960s who attends an elite, predominantly white college that resembles Northwestern at the time. "It is a coming-of-age tale with combustible questions about identity that still loom large," reads to the Times' review of Jackson's book.
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