Knoxville, TN - A slave is a stranger, says author Saidiya Hartman, torn "from kin and community, exiled from one's country, dishonored and violated." Hartman went to Ghana in search of strangers and tells about her journey in Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route. Join Michelle Commander, UT Assistant Professor of English and Africana, for a close look at Hartman's journey, noon, Wednesday, February 18 in the East Tennessee History Center auditorium, at this month’s Books Sandwiched In, a program series of Knox County Public Library.

“Hartman’s Lose Your Mother traces transatlantic slavery’s continued impact on the author and Black Americans, in general,” Commander said. “The institution of slavery is often described as the United States’ original sin, as it set the stage for what followed, including lynching, Jim Crow legislation, the denial of full citizenship rights to Black Americans, and other race-related injustices.”

“By visiting and researching at the vestiges of slavery that exist on Ghana’s coastline, Hartman catalogs the history of dispossession and loss experienced by enslaved Black people and their descendants, Commander said,  “illumining how they became outsiders within the United States and effective strangers to their perceived kin throughout Africa.”

Lose Your Mother compels us to question which histories the nation elects to memorialize, the validity of narratives of American progress, and how shame and silence reverberate across the Atlantic,” Commander said.

Michelle D. Commander received her Ph.D. in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. She spent the 2012-2013 school year in Accra, Ghana, as a Fulbright Lecturer/Researcher, where she taught at the University of Ghana and completed follow-up ethnographic research for her book manuscript, Afro-Atlantic Speculation: Imagined Africas, Flight, and the Black Fantastic.

Books Sandwiched In continues on March 18, when Dawn Distler, Knoxville Director of Transit, will discuss Happy City: Transforming our lives through urban design by Charles Montgomery. On April 15, Knoxville Attorney Wanda Sobieski will discuss A Call to Action: Women, religion, violence and power by Jimmy Carter.



​Mary Pom Claiborne

Knox County Public Library

(865) 215-8767