Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
Shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize 2020
Revolution in a minor key: how young Black women invented freedom.
A startling, dazzling act of resurrection ~ Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
One of our most brilliant contemporary thinkers ~ Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric
I was inspired, surprised and deeply moved ~ Leslie Jamison, New York Times Book Review
Ambitious, original… A beautiful experiment in its own right ~ Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
Wayward Lives Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman
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.
These women refused to labour like slaves. 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.