Lose Your Mother

By Seth Freed Wessler Sep 29, 2008

Last week I I went to the Brecht Forum in New York to listen to Saidiya Hartman read from her book "Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route." The book is an account of the voyage that Hartman, a Columbia University literature professor, took along the middle passage. She read excerpts that brought to life- in horrid, heartbreaking, enraging detail- the death world of the slave trade. She conjured scenes of subjection (the title of her last book) like a novelist attuned to the depths of human condition could in a book that is not a novel but a history. The lines between story telling and history are blurred in her work because there is such a thin archive from which to write this history. She tells a narrative that is a history that is true. And we should listen because ultimately, as she said to those around the table, "these economies of theft and predation are the economies that form this world now." Hear excerpts of Lose Your Mother