Sunday, February 11, 2007

Reviewed: Hartman, Lose your Mother, on the Atlantic Slave Trade

LOSE YOUR MOTHER: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (Straus & Giroux), by Saidiya Hartman is reviewed today in the New York Times. What emerges is a complex and personal trans-Atlantic history. Elizabeth Schmidt begins:
Saidiya Hartman’s story of retracing the routes of the Atlantic slave trade in Ghana is an original, thought-provoking meditation on the corrosive legacy of slavery from the 16th century to the present and a welcome illustration of the powers of innovative scholarship to help us better understand how history shapes identity. But the book is also — this must be stressed — splendidly written, driven by this writer’s prodigious narrative gifts. She combines a novelist’s eye for telling detail (“My appearance confirmed it: I was the proverbial outsider. Who else sported vinyl in the tropics?”) with the blunt, self-aware voice (“On the really bad days, I felt like a monster in a cage with a sign warning: ‘Danger, snarling Negro. Keep away’ ”) of those young writers who have revived the American coming-of-age story into something more engaging and empathetic than the tales of redemption or of the exemplary life well lived, patterned on Henry Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass.
Hartman’s main shaking up our abstract, and therefore forgettable, appreciation for a tragedy wrought on countless nameless, faceless Africans.

For the rest, click here.