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Winner of the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism
"Exhilarating…A rich resurrection of a forgotten history." —Parul Sehgal, New York Times
Beautifully written and deeply researched, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments examines the revolution of black intimate life that unfolded in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. In wrestling with the question of what a free life is, many young black women created forms of intimacy and kinship indifferent to the dictates of respectability and outside the bounds of law. They cleaved to and cast off lovers, exchanged sex to subsist, and revised the meaning of marriage. Longing and desire fueled their experiments in how to live. They refused to labor like slaves or to accept degrading conditions of work. Here, for the first time, these women are credited with shaping a cultural movement that transformed the urban landscape. Through a melding of history and literary imagination, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments recovers these women’s radical aspirations and insurgent desires.
In Lose Your Mother, Saidiya Hartman journeys along a slave route in Ghana, following the trail of captives from the hinterland to the Atlantic coast. She retraces the history of the Atlantic slave trade from the fifteenth to the twentieth century and reckons with the blank slate of her own genealogy.
There were no survivors of Hartman's lineage, nor far-flung relatives in Ghana of whom she had come in search. She traveled to Ghana in search of strangers. The most universal definition of the slave is a stranger—torn from kin and country. To lose your mother is to suffer the loss of kin, to forget your past, and to inhabit the world as a stranger. As both the offspring of slaves and an American in Africa, Hartman, too, was a stranger. Her reflections on history and memory unfold as an intimate encounter with places—a holding cell, a slave market, a walled town built to repel slave raiders—and with people: an Akan prince who granted the Portuguese permission to build the first permanent trading fort in West Africa; an adolescent boy who was kidnapped while playing; a fourteen-year-old girl who was murdered aboard a slave ship.
Eloquent, thoughtful, and deeply affecting, Lose Your Mother is a powerful meditation on history, memory, and the Atlantic slave trade.