We are proud to announce that BookBrowse has won Platinum in the 2024 Modern Library Awards.

Reviews of All That She Carried by Tiya Miles

All That She Carried

The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake

by Tiya Miles

All That She Carried by Tiya Miles X
All That She Carried by Tiya Miles
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2021, 416 pages

    Paperback:
    Feb 2022, 416 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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 new 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.

Chapter 1
Ruth's Record

"My great-grandmama told my grandmama the part she lived through that my grandmama didn't live through and my grandmama told my mama what they both lived through and my mama told me what they all lived through and we were suppose to pass it down like that from generation to generation so we'd never forget."

—Gayl Jones, Corregidora, 1975

"Then I found the slave lists. There were bundles of them, in thick sheaves, each sheaf containing a stack. When a rice planter handed out shoes, he wrote down the names of who got them. To pay taxes, he made an inventory of his human property. If he bought fabric so people could make clothes, he noted how many yards were given to each person. When a woman gave birth, the date and name of the child appeared."

—Edward Ball, Slaves in the Family, 1998

As a young woman with modest means and few prospects, Ruth Middleton transformed her life by moving north. Taking a leap into the unknown as a Black woman in the 1910s ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!
  • award image

    National Book Awards
    2021

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The conversation that should be had after viewing Ashley's Sack is how black women slaves transferred love despite living through perversions, violence and endless work. How they desired freedom even as they didn't expect it. How they maneuvered, saved one another, sewed up wounds and mothered. It is these conversations Tiya Miles has triggered with this holy work. Rose was a tender mother, and that is at the heart of Miles' story, which is enormous not because of its 400+ pages but because of its artifacts, tales, tragedy and atrocities. Peeling back the racial onion is a sacred act of resistance. The heroism alone of how Rose loved a child when she herself was damaged is beautiful...continued

Full Review (1105 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Valerie Morales).

Media Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
A riveting account of how Ashley's sack was rediscovered and traces Ruth's journey through the Great Migration while exploring the family's lineage. Filled with rare, archival photographs of objects from the era, this volume is a natural choice for book clubs and a must-buy for public and academic libraries alike.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"[A] brilliant and compassionate account...With careful historical examination as well as empathetic imagination, Miles effectively demonstrates the dignity and mystery of lives that history often neglects and opens the door to the examination of many untold stories. A strikingly vivid account of the impact of connection on this family and others.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
MacArthur fellow Miles paints an evocative portrait of slavery and Black family life in this exquisitely crafted history...This elegant narrative is a treasure trove of insight and emotion.

Author Blurb Brittney Cooper, author of Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower
Tiya Miles uses the tools of her trade to tend to Black people, to Black mothers and daughters, to our wounds, to collective Black love and loss. This book demonstrates Miles's signature genius in its rare balance of both rigor and care.

Author Blurb David W. Blight, Yale University, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom
All That She Carried is a moving literary and visual experience about love between a mother and daughter and about many women descendants down through the years. Above all it is Miles's lyrical story, written in her signature penetrating prose, about the power of objects and memory, as well as human endurance, in the history of slavery. Ashley's sack carries us into another world as it reveals our own. The book is nothing short of a revelation.

Author Blurb Michael Eric Dyson, author of Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America
We live in a world that undervalues, ignores, and erases the work and the humanity of Black women. Ashley's Sack, as it is known, with its short and simple message of intergenerational love, becomes a portal through which Tiya Miles views and reimagines the inner lives of Black women. She excavates the history of Black women who face insurmountable odds and invent a language that can travel across time.

Reader Reviews

Cathryn Conroy

A Brilliant Melding of the Scholarly and the Personal. Quite Simply, This Is Essential Reading.
It’s just an old cotton seed bag. But it is truly priceless. Sometime in the 1850s, Rose, an enslaved woman in Charleston, South Carolina, gave the bag to her nine-year-old daughter, Ashley, on the eve of her being sold away from her family to ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Artifacts at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Ashley's Sack The three-tiered National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. embraces the rich history of slaves and their descendants. The museum opened in 2016, displaying thousands of artifacts illustrating the experience of the unfree, and the emancipated, including Ashley's Sack (which will be on display next at the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina), the history of which is covered by Tiya Miles in the book All That She Carried. The achievements of African American scholars, entrepreneurs, scientists, athletes, musicians, writers and politicians, plus the objects that reflected their experience and memory, lined the upper tiers of the Yoruba-inspired building.

Ashley's ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked All That She Carried, try these:

  • His Name Is George Floyd jacket

    His Name Is George Floyd

    by Robert Samuels, Toluse Olorunnipa

    Published 2024

    About this book

    A landmark biography by two prizewinning Washington Post reporters that reveals how systemic racism shaped George Floyd's life and legacy - from his family's roots in the tobacco fields of North Carolina, to ongoing inequality in housing, education, health care, criminal justice, and policing - telling the singular story of how one man's tragic ...

  • The Grimkes jacket

    The Grimkes

    by Kerri K. Greenidge

    Published 2024

    About this book

    A stunning counternarrative of the legendary abolitionist Grimke sisters that finally reclaims the forgotten Black members of their family.

We have 12 read-alikes for All That She Carried, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Tiya Miles
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Ascent
    The Ascent
    by Adam Plantinga
    Adam Plantinga's brilliant debut novel, The Ascent, introduces readers to former Detroit police ...
  • Book Jacket: The Curse of Pietro Houdini
    The Curse of Pietro Houdini
    by Derek B. Miller
    Derek B. Miller's sixth novel, The Curse of Pietro Houdini, opens in the town of Cassino, Italy, in ...
  • Book Jacket: Our Moon
    Our Moon
    by Rebecca Boyle
    In Our Moon: How Earth's Celestial Companion Transformed the Planet, Guided Evolution, and Made Us ...
  • Book Jacket: Neighbors and Other Stories
    Neighbors and Other Stories
    by Diane Oliver
    The history of American segregation, along with changes to it in the 1960s, is sometimes taught and ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Mockingbird Summer
by Lynda Rutledge
A powerful and emotional coming-of-age novel set in the 1960s by the bestselling author of West with Giraffes.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Strong Passions
    by Barbara Weisberg

    Shocking revelations of a wife's adultery in 19th New York explode in an incendiary trial exposing the upper-crust and its secrets.

  • Book Jacket

    Leaving
    by Roxana Robinson

    An engrossing exploration of the vows we make to one another and what we owe to others and ourselves.

Win This Book
Win The Cleaner

The Cleaner
by Brandi Wells

Rarely has cubicle culture been depicted in such griminess or with such glee."
PW (starred review)

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I Wouldn't T H W A T-F P

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.