University of Minnesota Press

Joanna Brooks’s ancestors were among the early waves of emigrants to leave England for North America. Her book Why We Left: Untold Stories and Songs of America’s First Immigrants reveals the violence and dislocation that propelled seventeenth- and eighteenth-century working-class English emigration, and follows American folk ballads back across the Atlantic to find histories of economic displacement, environmental destruction, and social betrayal at the heart of the early Anglo-American migrant experience. A tenth-anniversary edition of the book has just been released, which includes a new preface and develops a haunting historical perspective on the ancestors we thought we knew. Here, Brooks is joined by Desmond Hassing in conversation.

Joanna Brooks is an award-winning scholar and writer whose work tends to catastrophes of human belonging in American history. The author or editor of ten books on race, religion, colonialism, and social movements, her writing has been featured in the BBC, NPR, the Daily Show, CNN, MSNBC, and the Washington Post.

An enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a San Diego native, Dr. Desmond Hassing is a conceptual artist, scholar, and activist who focuses on educating Western subjects on the intentionally disremembered subject of the Indigenous Peoples of North America. Hassing is founder of the Indigenous Peoples Reading Room, a planned open-access scholarship archive, and creator of The National Indian Project, an annotated bibliography of Native American, First Nations, and Pacific Islander representations in DC/National comic books of the same period. Hassing is lecturer in the Department of American Indian Studies at San Diego State University.

Why We Left: Untold Stories and Songs of America’s First Immigrants is available from University of Minnesota Press.

“A surprising, bold, and altogether brilliant contribution to our understanding of why people crossed the Atlantic to live in a strange new world.”
—Marcus Rediker

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