In Lose Your Mother, Saidiya Hartman traces the history of the Atlantic slave trade by recounting a journey she took along a slave route in Ghana. Following the trail of captives from the hinterland to the Atlantic coast, she reckons with the blank slate of her own genealogy and vividly dramatizes the effects of slavery on three centuries of African and African American history.
The slave, Hartman observes, is a stranger—torn from family, home, and country. To lose your mother is to be severed from your kin, to forget your past, and to inhabit the world as an outsider. There are no known survivors of Hartman's lineage, no relatives in Ghana whom she came hoping to find. She is a stranger in search of strangers, and this fact leads her into intimate engagements with the people she encounters along the way and with figures from the past whose lives were shattered and transformed by the slave trade. Written in prose that is fresh, insightful, and deeply affecting, Lose Your Mother is a "landmark text" (Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams).
Saidiya Hartman is the author of Scenes of Subjection, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, and Lose Your Mother. She was a professor in the Department of English and African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, prior to joining the faculty of Columbia University, where she is currently a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. She received a MacArthur fellowship in 2019. She lives in New York City.
“An original, thought-provoking meditation on the corrosive legacy of slavery, [Lose Your Mother is] splendidly written, driven by this writer's prodigious narrative gifts.” —Elizabeth Schmidt, The New York Times Book Review
“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