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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.
About the Author
Saidiya Hartman is the author of "Scenes of Subjection" "Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in the Nineteenth-Century America." She has taught at the University of California in Berkeley, and is currently a visiting professor at Columbia University. She lives in New York City.
"LOSE YOUR MOTHER is wider and deeper than Alex Haley's landmark ROOTS, much less sentimental and incredibly smart. It reads like a cross between Bruce Chatwin and Toni Morrison, top-notch travel-writing and scintillating prose and soul. Hartman makes the Middle Passage more personal than heretofore imaginable both for Africans and African Americans. In so doing Hartman goes a long way toward healing an unhealable hurt. Absolutely searing. This book is destined to be a landmark all its own. Probably the most meaningful book I've read this year." --Randall Kenan, author of A Visitation of Spirits
"Combining the depth and breadth of a scholar of slavery with the imagination and linguistic facility of a novelist, Saidiya Hartman has written a most poignant meditation on the ironies of black identity in a postmodern, multicultural world. Hartman has found a most compelling narrative voice that enables the dreaded Middle Passage and the tomb of slavery to speak to a new generation of readers. This is a memoir about loss, alienation, and estrangement, but also, ultimately, about the power of art to remember. Lose Your Mother is a magnificent achievement." --Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
"Lose Your Mother is a profound utterance of humanity, an innovative and compelling re-narrativization of terror by a scholar of extraordinary subtlety of vision, insight and empathy." -Hazel V. Carby, Charles C. & Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies, Yale University
"Hartman moves beyond archives and attempts to hear the voices of ghosts. Lose Your Mother is one of those landmark texts that succeeds at remembering the horrors of the Middle Passage and the historical legacy that experience left on both sides of the Atlantic." -Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
"Lose Your Mother is a radiant book that takes readers through much which feels beyond imaginative confrontation. Saidiya Hartman's words and thinking are unflinching, true, and beautiful, and only she could have written this extraordinary book." --Elizabeth Alexander, Professor of African-American Studies, Yale University