Winner of the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism
Winner of the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction
Winner of the 2020 Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction
Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir/Biography
"Exhilarating...A rich resurrection of a forgotten history." —Parul Sehgal, New York Times
Beautifully written and deeply researched, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments examines the revolution of black intimate life that unfolded in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. In wrestling with the question of what a free life is, many young black women created forms of intimacy and kinship indifferent to the dictates of respectability and outside the bounds of law. They cleaved to and cast off lovers, exchanged sex to subsist, and revised the meaning of marriage. Longing and desire fueled their experiments in how to live. They refused to labor like slaves or to accept degrading conditions of work. Here, for the first time, these women are credited with shaping a cultural movement that transformed the urban landscape. Through a melding of history and literary imagination, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments recovers these women's radical aspirations and insurgent desires.