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W. W. Norton & Company

"Jordan is a wizard at capturing vernacular in both conventional forms and his own invention." —Black Issues Book Review


A true story lies behind this haunting collection. In 1936, MacNolia Cox became the first African American to reach the final round of the national spelling bee competition. The Southern judges, it is thought, kept her from winning by presenting a word not on the official list.

Though she had been an A student and dreamed of being a doctor, MacNolia left school, married, and worked as a domestic in the home of a physician—“They say she/ Spelled like a demon…/She’s the best damn maid in town.”

M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A is a poignant commentary on one life and on the social and racial attitudes of the Depression thirties.