National Book Award Winner

A renowned historian traces the life of a single object handed down through three generations of Black women to craft an extraordinary testament to people who are left out of the archives

Product Code: 8890
ISBN: 9781984855015
Format: Paperback / softback
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 416
Published Date: 02/01/2022
Availability:In stock
Price: $18.99

In 1850s South Carolina, an enslaved woman named Rose faced a crisis, the imminent sale of her daughter Ashley. Thinking quickly, she packed a cotton bag with a few precious items as a token of love and to try to ensure Ashley’s survival. Soon after, the nine-year-old girl was separated from her mother and sold.

Decades later, Ashley’s granddaughter Ruth embroidered this family history on the bag in spare yet haunting language - including Rose’s wish that “It be filled with my Love always.” Ruth’s sewn words, the reason we remember Ashley’s sack today, evoke a sweeping family story of loss and of love passed down through generations. Now, in this illuminating, deeply moving book inspired by Rose’s gift to Ashley, historian Tiya Miles carefully unearths these women’s faint presence in archival records to follow the paths of their lives - and the lives of so many women like them - to write a singular and revelatory history of the experience of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States.

The search to uncover this history is part of the story itself. For where the historical record falls short of capturing Rose’s, Ashley’s, and Ruth’s full lives, Miles turns to objects and to art as equally important sources, assembling a chorus of women’s and families’ stories and critiquing the scant archives that for decades have overlooked so many. The contents of Ashley’s sack - a tattered dress, handfuls of pecans, a braid of hair, “my Love always” - are eloquent evidence of the lives these women lived. As she follows Ashley’s journey, Miles metaphorically unpacks the bag, deepening its emotional resonance and exploring the meanings and significance of everything it contained.

All That She Carried is a poignant story of resilience and of love passed down through generations of women against steep odds. It honors the creativity and fierce resourcefulness of people who preserved family ties even when official systems refused to do so, and it serves as a visionary illustration of how to reconstruct and recount their stories today.

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Prologue: Emergency Packs

Introduction: Love’s Practitioners

1 Ruth’s Record
2 Searching for Rose
3 Packing the Sack
4 Rose’s Inventory
5 The Auction Block
6 Ashley’s Seeds
7 The Bright Unspooling
Conclusion: It Be Filled

Sampler: A Note on Terms
Little Sack of Something: An Essay on Process
Permission Acknowledgments

ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post, Slate, Vulture, Publishers Weekly
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, NPR, Time, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Smithsonian Magazine, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ms, Book Riot, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist

“Deeply layered and insightful . . . [a] bold reflection on American history, African American resilience, and the human capacity for love and perseverance in the face of soul-crushing madness.” - The Washington Post

“A history told with brilliance and tenderness and fearlessness.” - Jill Lepore, author of These Truths: A History of the United States

“A remarkable book.” - Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

“Deeply and lovingly researched . . . a testament to the power of story, witness, and unyielding love.” - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Through [Miles’s] interpretation, the humble things in the sack take on ever-greater meaning, its very survival seems magical, and Rose’s gift starts to feel momentous in scale.” - Rebecca Onion, Slate

“[An] extraordinary story . . . Unique and unforgettable.” - Ms.

“A brilliant exercise in historical excavation and recovery . . . With creativity, determination, and great insight, Miles illuminates the lives of women who suffered much, but never forgot the importance of love and family.” - Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello

“[A] powerful history of women and slavery.” - The New Yorker

“[A] sparkling tale.” - Oprah Daily

“Tiya Miles is a gentle genius . . . All That She Carried is a gorgeous book and a model for how to read as well as feel the precious artifacts of Black women’s lives.” - Imani Perry, author of Breathe: A Letter to My Sons

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