In our latest cover story, Vann R. Newkirk II details how 1 million black families were forced off their farmland, a loss that translates to about $3.7 billion to $6.6 billion in today’s dollars. Such stories of displacement—the loss of property, or the loss of a home—are compelling subjects for many authors, who delve into the histories of real and fictional people to reflect on what it means to part with the place you come from.
Nicole Dennis-Benn’s novel Patsy moves between Jamaica and Brooklyn to tell the story of a mother who leaves her homeland and her daughter behind—a separation that leaves both characters struggling to find autonomy in either setting. The black women whose stories are documented in Saidiya Hartman’s book Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments quietly became models of personal liberation during the Great Migration, amid a larger struggle for women to live as they pleased. Isabel Wilkerson writes a wider chronicle of black families’ exodus from the South after emancipation in her indispensable work The Warmth of Other Suns, which approaches the period’s history through the biographies of actual migrants.
Chitra Divakaruni’s protagonist in Queen of Dreams, a first-generation Indian American woman, is overcome with thoughts of her ancestral home, which is largely an untold mystery to her. And Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid, imagines the world as a place where all people are or will become foreigners of sorts, with only fading memories of their history and heritage.
Each week in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas. Check out past issues here.
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What We’re Reading
A novel that weighs the costs of love and motherhood
“Patsy is a portrait of black queer women grasping for self-determination, and a challenge to the conventions of what is expected of good mothers and good women and good immigrants.”