Zanna's Reviews > Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route

Lose Your Mother by Saidiya Hartman
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it was amazing

I think it would be correct to say that Saidiya Hartman is an academic and went to Ghana to do academic research. That she decided to communicate that research as this highly accessible and moving personal story, I am deeply grateful for. But the quality of insight in this book (and perhaps the integrity as well, the commitment to refuse easy answers and excuses, to seek the true truth without sparing oneself in any way, is not only a personal quality of the author but something of the spirit of the field) to me seems pretty strongly validating to the whole institution of academia and studying stuff deeply. Hartman presents her findings and realisations with humility, making them seem obvious, but they were hard won for important reasons, and the stories of the journeys to them are what convey them so clearly.

I have felt lacunae in various awesome museum and gallery events relating to Black and West African histories and cultures. Much of this book concerns absence and emptiness. In Ghana, the people bought as slaves by Europeans and shipped elsewhere are, of course, not to be found. Their traces are faint. The local attitudes to their fate are at odds with the emotions of the African American tourists who come seeking consolation or connection or whatever else might be found... Hartman speaks of her struggles to articulate the purpose of her visit, to herself and to others. This is only one of so many struggles with the legacy of the slave trade. Investigating and writing about such matters should not have the intention of settling them or making them comfortable, but of course Hartman seeks solace, seeks a future for Black Americans in which this past has ended. She calls out the way Ghana transforms its traces of the slave trade into a lucrative tourist industry without owning responsibility for the powerful kingdoms and raiders who traded slaves. In The Continent of Black Consciousness: On the History of the African Diaspora from Slavery to the Present Day, Erna Brodber explains how the African people traded out of the country by Europeans suffered by far the worst form of slavery ever perpetrated, but Hartman writes with full compassion and outrage for all enslaved people.

If the story has a trajectory, for the most part it's going deeper, descending. At each layer I wonder, how will we get out of this? Maybe that's the right question.
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Reading Progress

April 19, 2019 – Shelved
April 19, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
December 21, 2019 – Started Reading
February 23, 2020 – Finished Reading

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