Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals (Paperback)Saidiya Hartman (author)
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A masterly piece of revisionist history that burns with the dynamism and spirit of its remarkable protagonists, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Subjects illuminates a generation of black women who revolutionised domestic and public life. Deftly exploring the still-fresh legacy of slavery and the censure and opprobrium these women faced, Hartman’s book is nothing less than a revelation.
At the dawn of the twentieth century, black women in the US were carving out new ways of living. The first generations born after emancipation, their struggle was to live as if they really were free. Their defeats were bitter, but their triumphs became the blueprint for a world that was waiting to be born.
These women refused to labour like slaves or to accept degrading conditions of work. Wrestling with the question of freedom, they invented forms of love and solidarity outside convention and law. These were the pioneers of free love, common-law and transient marriages, queer identities, and single motherhood - all deemed scandalous, even pathological, at the dawn of the twentieth century, though they set the pattern for the world to come.
In Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, Saidiya Hartman deploys both radical scholarship and profound literary intelligence to examine the transformation of intimate life that they instigated. With visionary intensity, she conjures their worlds, their dilemmas, their defiant brilliance.
Wayward Lives recovers their radical aspirations and insurgent desires, their unfinished revolution in a minor key.
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Number of pages: 416
Weight: 577 g
Dimensions: 220 x 153 x 30 mm
'Ambitious, original... a beautiful experiment in its own right, to be set beside the many attempts at living free that Hartman here chronicles with a keen sense of history, imagination, and love.' - Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
'Wayward Lives is a startling, dazzling act of resurrection... These remarkable black women were shamed, scorned, criminalized, studied, diagnosed and then erased from history. Yet now, Hartman challenges us to see, finally, who they really were: beautiful, complex, and multidimensional-whole people - who dared to live by their own rules, somehow making a way out of no way at all.' - Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
'Saidiya Hartman tells a mesmerizing story with a multitude of women as its heroines, lifting up invisible black seekers within the cities of one hundred years ago to the light of memory and tribute. She uses the weapons of lyric and literature to steal 'colored women' away from the grasp of white lawmen and the clinical gaze, and along the way gives history what it lacks and wants-black women as secret agents of destiny, deep lives from the unnamed crowd, and underground sinners as the true sponsors of social change.' - Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family
'Exhilarating....A rich resurrection of a forgotten history....[Hartman's] rigor and restraint give her writing its distinctive electricity and tension....This kind of beautiful, immersive narration exists for its own sake but it also counteracts the most common depictions of black urban life from this time.' - The New York Times
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