In the Wake: On Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe
In this original and trenchant work, Christina Sharpe interrogates literary, visual, cinematic, and quotidian representations of Black life that comprise what she calls the "orthography of the wake." Activating multiple registers of "wake"—the path behind a ship, keeping watch with the dead, coming to consciousness—Sharpe illustrates how Black lives are swept up and animated by the afterlives of slavery, and she delineates what survives despite such insistent violence and negation. Initiating and describing a theory and method of reading the metaphors and materiality of "the wake," "the ship," "the hold," and "the weather," Sharpe shows how the sign of the slave ship marks and haunts contemporary Black life in the diaspora and how the specter of the hold produces conditions of containment, regulation, and punishment, but also something in excess of them. In the weather, Sharpe situates anti-Blackness and white supremacy as the total climate that produces premature Black death as normative. Formulating the wake and "wake work" as sites of artistic production, resistance, consciousness, and possibility for living in diaspora, In the Wake offers a way forward.
"This could have been a one thousand page book, filled with 'evidence,' citations and systematic 'proof,' but instead it is an earned, slim volume of poetic, intellectual and, in fact, spiritual enactment of struggle. In this way, In The Wake is an effective, personal conversation with the reader that uses both fact, image, and emotion, legitimately, to illuminate argument." — Sarah Schulman, Lambda Literary Review
"With In the Wake, Christina Sharpe looks out from the text and really tries to see us, both those here and gone, living and dead, in the wake, for all we are. We might begin, anew, by carefully looking back—double emphasis on care."
— John Murillo III, Make
"In the Wake is a necessary chapter in a lengthy tome of ending white supremacy." — Jonathan Russell Clark, Literary Hub
"Mourning can be and has been a politics, but it must avoid becoming only a litany of horrors. Refusing melancholy in favor of care, In the Wake understands mourning as a practice embedded in living, and vice versa. Sharpe’s beautiful book enacts this indistinctness through pulling language apart and putting it to new purposes." — Hannah Black, 4Columns