Reviews

“A detailed and enthralling account of finding ancestors amid archival files from around the world, the book establishes an emotional connection that spans centuries …. Boon’s writing elevates an already excellent book into a beautiful work of literature. Her language is precise and evocative, conjuring images of ocean voyages and sun-touched skin, deep longing, horrific suffering, and resilience against all odds.”

Carolina Ciucci, Foreword Review, September/October 2019

 

What the Oceans Remember addresses the complex and complicit question ‘Where are you from?’ by taking readers on an extraordinary trip through continents and countries, and to cities and their archives, to help us understand how the stories of our ancestors tell us something about ourselves. Boon’s exploration of the seductive spaces of the archives and the crossing of various kinds of borders brings to mind the work of Saidiya Hartman (Lose Your Mother), Maggie Nelson (The Argonauts), and complements the work of writers like Sara Ahmed as well. ”

Minelle Mahtani, University of British Columbia,
author of Mixed Race Amnesia: Resisting the Romanticization of Multiraciality, host and creator of Acknowledgements and Sense of Place

 

What the Oceans Remember is breathtaking in scope. Reaching across continents, oceans and histories, it shows us what it means to live in the shadow of freedom while unfree; how the colour of a person’s skin can determine if they are seen or invisible; how the word home can exclude; how the beauty of music can be a balm; how the invaluable quiet of an archive can quake with unearthed voices. Unrelentingly honest, sometimes harrowing, steeped in rich and startling insight, and conveyed in transparent prose – elegant as silk, tough as steel. ”

Lisa Moore, author of Something for Everyone

 

“Timely, compelling and illuminating in equal measure, What the Oceans Remember, which scrutinizes the lives and legacies of several generations of slaves and indentured labourers in Suriname, also confronts the rights and responsibilities we bear in relation to our ancestors. In this ever-questioning memoir, Sonja Boon maps emotional registers and bureaucratic statistics as honestly as she navigates theoretical currents and ethical anxiety. Weaving desire, dreams, and personal memory into the historical record, Boon succeeds admirably in making silences speak and fragments cohere in a fine example of creative non-fiction. ”

Lydia Syson, author of Mr Peacock’s Possessions