Lover of the Fancy

Early C20th American culture and dissent

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals
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.

Paperback, 416pp
Serpent’s Tail, 2021 (2020)
ISBN 9781788163248


Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize, 2020

Saidiya Hartman is a Columbia University professor of English and Comparative Literature. She is the author ofScenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-making in Nineteenth Century America (Oxford University Press,1997) and Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007). In 2019 Saidiya Hartman was awarded a prestigious MacArthur ‘Genius’ grant.