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Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route
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Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  326 ratings  ·  41 reviews
InLose 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 his ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 22nd 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2007)
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This review was published originally in Left Turn Magazine.


Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007

One of the most painful political battles I've ever had was with a white activist. When co-authoring a political document, I was asked to declare myself as "an American." They couldn't understand how and why I refused to accept that label, nor had any sense that there is a school of Black political th
Sara-Maria Sorentino
Aug 10, 2009 Sara-Maria Sorentino rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Naeem, Alison, Dan
Shelves: west-africa, slavery
In both Bayo Hasley’s book, ‘Routes of Remembrance’ and Saidiya Hartman’s ‘Lose Your Mother’, the authors--female African-American scholars--explore shared ground: the political economy of diasporic celebrations, the complex politics of memory for inhabitants in the shadow of Cape Coast and Elmina slave fortresses, the class dynamics of slavery in the Northern regions, the psychology of pan-african longing. But the difference in form is crucial, and with the outcome, one can’t help but think it ...more
This passage stuck me as no other in the book has. In Chapter 4, "Come, Go Back, Child", p100: "Every generation confronts the task of choosing its past. Inheritances are chosen as much as they are passed on. The past depends less on 'what happened then' than on the desires and discontents of the present. Strivings and failures shape the stories we tell. What we recall has as much to do with the terrible things we hope to avoid as with the good life for which we yearn. But when does one decide t ...more
Jun 20, 2009 Lpulido is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I'm about half way done with this book. i'm reading it as my "bedtime reading", which was not the best choice, as it is really intense and not exactly cheerful (to say the least). but it is a great book. aside from learning a lot about slavery, what i am most struck by is the writing. for me, this is a totally unique way of doing academic writing. on the one hand it is a popular book, but it is still an academic book. i very much admire her honesty and insights as she deals with this deep and ne ...more
I was somewhat surprised at this book. Having read Hartman's first published book, Scenes of Subjection, I was expecting a similar analytic angle. I didn't get what I expected, but I got something rather amazing, nevertheless. The analytic value of this book goes on at both at the descriptive level and at the movement between personal narrative and historical scene-setting.

Lose Your Mother appears to be intended to be sold as a more "mainstream" book, an idea I like--it's an attempt to populari
Kia B
Currently in process, but so far amazing. Puts a lot in perspective.Very sad yet interesting journey seen through the very detailed authors eyes.
At once a history of the slave trade in Africa, a meditation on the meaning of diasporic identity and returning home, and an examination of the limitations of the archive. I found her continual discussions of what it meant for her, the descendant of slaves, to be interrogating the history of slavery and her linking of these discussions to her current identity and aspirations superb. I knew little about the effects of trans-Atlantic slavery on West Africa and found her unflinching criticism, indi ...more
Amaryah Armstrong
Hartman's book is a wandering tale that gives voice to the displacement of loss and desire that marks the trail left by slavery and the Middle Passage. There are some truly beautiful passages in this book, and the author's blend of history with the personal drives home her point in an understated way. Some chapters dragged a bit, but for the most part, there is quite a bit of riveting information.

"To believe, as I do, that the enslaved are our contemporaries is to understand that we share their
Saidiya Hartman, a black American and scholar, travels to Ghana in order to -- what, exactly? Search for signs of her family's history before the Middle Passage? Reunite with members of the ancestral family from which her own line has been estranged for four-hundred years? Confront the physical spaces of slavery (the markets, the dungeons, etc.) in order to finally make peace with the shadows they have cast over her life?

Lose Your Mother is as much a "Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route" as i
This book is part Atlantic slave trade history and part personal journey to reconcile where "home" exists for African-Americans who don't feel rooted in the US. The author finds that she does not feel welcomed as "sister" in Africa either.

It was informative and the author did a lot of research. She also expressed some raw emotion and brutal honesty which I wasn't expecting but appreciated. However, she did not do an adequate job of organizing her composition which makes the book difficult to fo
Demetri Broxton-Santiago
Dec 15, 2008 Demetri Broxton-Santiago rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: You
Recommended to Demetri by: Alice Walker (literally!)
I just started this book; however, I am completely absorbed by it and moved. Saidiyah Hartman goes to Ghana-- around the same time in her life as I went "back home". She goes there to discover her African roots. Unfortunately she steps off the plane and is almost immediately greeted with the title, "Obruni" -- foreigner.
Hartman's language is beautiful and the story really hits home. This is not a work of fiction, yet it reads as easily and vividly as a novel. She presents visceral images of G
I really wanted more detail here. (To be fair, the author, who went to Ghana to trace the route her ancestors might have taken as slaves from inland Africa to North America, notes that she too was dissatisfied with the detail she was able to dredge up). Though I learned a ton from this book that I never knew before , I felt like there was too little information about the slave trade and journey for it to be a solid history book, but also too little about modern-day Ghanans' relationship with the ...more
I really loved this. Hartman weaves together history, personal reflection, social issues, and philosophy as she tackles the legacy of the Atlantic slave trade.

The times Lose Your Mother was most engaging was when Hartman describes the pain still felt by the descendants of slaves, and how she went looking for her history as a way of coming to peace with the disconnection from her past and the racism endured in the present. Ultimately, it seems, slavery is a crime that no one but a handful of the
Dissonant from her previous book, this historical memoir explores the realities of slavery in an African context, rather than solely a transatlantic sense. Hartman's conflicted response to the notion of an African homecoming illustrates the difference between black Americans who have suffered the legacy of slavery and African progeny of slaves, who consider themselves survivors. There are several poignant passages in the text where Hartman allows herself a raw unveiling of the chasm between what ...more
I have an undying thirst for books on the history of africans in the disapora but my uncensored thought on this one is that it was disappointing. Not because it wasn't well written but for the fact that there was a constant return to Saidiya's journey in defining her identity as a result of the legacy of slavery. While I can absolutely relate to her wandring on this, the idea of a whole book with no resolution left me wanting. But perhaps that was just the point, we are a people rooted in displa ...more
hartman writes that her intent with this project was to investigate the "popular memory of slavery" (27)in ghana, so she bypasses the archives (for a time) & travels across the atlantic to trace inland slaving routes. and what a job she does- i loved this memoir: it's searching and raw, beautifully written and researched, and will probably become a 5-star after i give it some time to settle in. hartman's is a sensitive treatment of the lines of division between those on the continent and tho ...more
Crystal Cubbage
I was riveted by this book when I first started reading it. The author seemed to be writing about the experiences I had when I visited West Africa as an African-American in search of... I also appreciated the history of the African slave trade she shared during her journey.

As I progressed through the book, Dr. Hartman's interpretation of her experience made Lose Your Mother a harder read for me. I was relieved when she reevaluated what she was going through enough to distill meaning from her tri
Wow. This book was absolutely amazing. I have read other work by Hartman, so I knew I would like this, but I didn't think I would like it as much as I did. There were so many beautiful, salient lines throughout that I underlined about half the text! I think the mixing of memoir, history, and a little bit of fiction made this such a unique and poignant text. I thought I knew a lot about slavery and its legacy, but this book proved I had no idea. I would highly recommend this to anyone. Amazing.
Abe Appel
I'm not done completly with this book. But half way through I can say that if you wanted to read about the slave trade and the current conflicts, realities and contridiction for African-Americans and European Americans this would be the book.
It is written powerfly, inteligently, factually, and with an open hear few authors attain in their writings...especially concerning hisotry. What I love the most about this book is how well it covers the contrdictions.
A beautifully written travelogue. Anyone with an interest in the black Atlantic slave trade can benefit from being exposed to some of the ideas in those book (though those ideas aren't all necessarily Hartman's). Having not yet read any of her more scholarly works, I was struck by the honesty of this book, though at times I found myself wondering what she was leaving out by focusing on her own experience. Maybe what's missing is found in her other text.
I had high expectations and felt they were not met. There was information on the Atlantic slave trade that was new to me. I discovered some different avenues of inquiry. I thought much of the book had the tone of aggrievement -- a tone of whining -- a bit of sulkiness. I'd assume the author might know that not all African Americans approach the continent and its poeple with as much naivete, misinformation and sense of entitlement.
Nina Chachu
One of the assigned books for a "summer" course run at Ashesi on "The African city". I had put this book on a wish list some time ago, after reading a review, and was happy to finally read it. It is a very personal story of the impact of slavery and its heritage on the narrator, but also several of the people she meets while in Ghana. Not everyone who reads this book will agree with Hartman but her perspective does need to be aired.
Randy O
Hartman tells the story of her time spent in Ghana as a black woman studying the Atlantic slave trade and she also reflects on what slavery has meant to the making of the modern world. The book is a poetic tribute to the many nameless who were lost or who were crushed by the experience, and though at times the narration feels too forced, I would recommend it.
Yes, I got the visceral, painful revulsion that visiting sites of slave-selling brought to the author. Those emotions are totally appropriate and described well. I wanted to like the rest of the book, but I found her rhetorical questions and repetitive soul-searching-with-no-answers really annoying. Don't think I will finish it.
I know its probably cheating to pimp books I read for class on goodreads, but I really can't help it with this one. If you're even a little interested in the history of slavery, or really in "race relations" generally, then read this beautiful book. It's memoir-cum-history-cum-cultural studies and it's fabulous. And also devastating.
A personal account of heritage and race that is just that- too personal to be appealing. Hartman is obviously a very passionate, articulate, and intelligent woman, but a great writer she is not. The book drifts aimlessly between messy themes of racism, history and personal narrative, and it doesn't read well.
Not knowing your ancestors, who they were, where they came from is too loose your mother. Hartman goes in search of her heritage in Ghana and like the thousands before her comes away disillusioned, unwanted and returns home to the US still an orphan in the Diaspora.
I read this book because I wanted to learn more of the Atlantic slave history in Ghana. I learned some, but a lot of the book was about the author's own personal struggle with her family background as descendants of the Atlantic slave trade.
A book about the slave trade routes in Africa. I didn't finish it because it was more introspective and about the author's own life struggles with a slave heritage then about history. I hoped it would be more historical.
Saidiya Hartman has written an amazingly accessible and wonderfully sophisticated exploration of slavery and memory. This book is simply amazing. Everyone should read it.
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