Serpent's Tail wins auction for 'radical' history of young black women

Claire Coughlan
Rights - NonFiction Tuesday, 08 January 2019

Wayward Lives by Columbia professor Saidiya Hartman takes 'huge creative risks'


Serpent's Tail has won a five-publisher auction for Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman, for publication in August 2019. The publisher has UK (including audio, ebook and serial) rights from Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein, acting for Joe Spieler at the Spieler Agency. Norton will publish in the US in February.

The book has garnered advance praise from The Argonatuts author Maggie Nelson, who called it: "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." Hartman argues that America's young black women of the late 19th and early 20th century were our "great lost cultural avant-garde, the pioneers who transformed our ideas about love, sex, community, culture and social justice".

Publisher Ed Lake said: "I've never seen anything quite like it. It takes huge creative risks and they all pay off. The book's methods are radical. Its style is lavish. And its argument addresses a great and hidden injustice, one that has somehow been passed over in all our reckonings with race and gender and cultural appropriation. These women can only barely be glimpsed in the official record, and yet, under conditions of terrifying necessity, they were the inventors of so much that is good about our time. Straining at the limits of historiography, Hartman is finally giving them their due."

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