Wilderson, who leads the African-American Studies department at the University of California, Irvine, mixes both memoir and theory in “Afropessimism,” moving from his childhood in Minnesota to academic ideas about why black people “are not Human subjects, but are instead structurally inert props.” Below, he talks about pivotal time he spent in South Africa during apartheid, the tensions between theory and storytelling, and the inspiration he’s taken from the singer Sarah Vaughan.