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The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans Paperback – April 1, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though Klindienst imposes a strong philosophical structure on the narratives in this poetic collection, her political interpretations come second to the beauty and humor in what is essentially a set of portraits of both American gardens and gardeners. Woven into these stories are wide-ranging details of agricultural history: how to make blue corn piki bread, how the injustice of post-emancipation land sales affected one farmer, the fragrance of the sweet-sticky-pumpkin flower brought by refugees from Cambodia. Klindienst's writing shines when recounting her conversations with farmers, but her analysis of "hunger for community" and how a "garden can be a powerful expression of resistance" feels awkward. Luckily, between the prologue and the epilogue, Klindienst provides an unpretentious and touching tour of the increasingly rare corners of the country where land is worked by friendly locals who know the differences between five types of basil and can jaw for hours about plants, soil and the weather: "Oh golly let me see. It would be the bush beans," says one woman when asked about the type of seed she's been saving the longest (70 years, in this case). This book's broad scope touches on the best of nature writing, singing the rhythm of growth in both plants and people.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Klindienst celebrates gardens created by immigrants who resisted the intense pressure to assimilate into mainstream American society, in a lyrical account of her three-year journey to collect the stories of ethnic Americans for whom gardening is tantamount to cultural endurance. Survivors of the Pol Pot regime fled the killing fields of Cambodia for the healing fields of New England, while the Yankee inheritor of land wrested generations ago from Native Americans during the infamous Pequot Massacre of 1637 atones for that atrocity through the simple act of sharing seeds of corn with the tribe's descendants. Klindienst profiles 15 valiant and thoughtful gardeners intent on preserving their native birthright and on restoring and protecting their adopted land, individuals and families evincing a stewardship that not only resists cultural absorption but also sustains an ecological imperative. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807085715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807085714
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #904,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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See all 11 customer reviews
This wonderful book will edify and inspire you.
Mark Demasi
I would have purchased this book even if I did not know some of the people and places in this book.
Charlene
Her writing is sensitive, lyrical and haunting.
Slovak/Croatian Gardener

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mark Demasi on May 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This wonderful book will edify and inspire you. It is the individual stories of several gardeners from as many parts of the world who manage to communicate with the earth wherever they find themselves. Place a seed in fertile soil and predictable things happen no matter what your language or station in life. Through the stories of these hard-working, thoughtful people, we are reminded of what is truly important in life - family, community, our food and its source. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Melissa A. Bartell on September 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In the early 1970's Studs Terkel traveled across the country interviewing people about their work, and eventually compiled the interviews into the book Working. In the early 2000's, Patricia Klindienst took a similar approach, traveling around the USA to interview ethnic gardeners, immigrants who maintain their cultural identity through their connection to the earth.

While The Earth Knows My Name will never be a musical, it is a marvellous testament to the importance of earth and water, seed and plant, and in sustaining not just our ethnic roots, but also our whole selves. Her words bring to life the feeling of warm sun on your back while you plant corn, or crisp autumn mornings harvesting beans. She lets you smell the scent of flowers, but also taste the flavor of language, in her profiles of 15 gardeners.

This book is well written, it is poignant, and it is gently honest, with the author's love of gardening, and sincere respect for her subjects masking the inevitable political undercurrents.

My only complaint is that there should have been more pictures - I craved a coffee-table presentation, with Klindienst's words matched to lush photographs.

But maybe the mind's eye is the better viewing choice. Buy the book, and decide for yourself. Better yet, buy the book, and plant a garden.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Charlene on August 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I would have purchased this book even if I did not know some of the people and places in this book. Patricia's material and writing are inspirational not just for gardeners but for anyone who is interested in where their food originates. The diversity of the gardens and gardeners made me realize again, the necessity of supporting our local growers. My only complaint is that I wanted more and found myself rationing my chapters. Hopefully there will be a sequel to include the gardens she omitted. I strongly recommend this book. Makes a great gift.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Betsy Platkin Teutsch on December 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
Last summer I received this book as a surprise gift from my son's partner. Its author is a like an aunt to her, and she thought I might enjoy it. I was very touched by this generous gesture and certainly hoped to like it; its vivid cover looked inviting and the topic intriguing, but my expectations were modest at best. Dutifully I delved into it - lo and behold, I didn't just like it. I loved it. The writing is lyrical, the stories are powerful. Its narratives, chronicling the experience of people bringing forth food from the earth, put this book squarely on the shelf with Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle and Pollon's Omnivore's Dilemma.

English lacks a word for people who grow their own food while working a day job: hence the book's dissertation-length title, The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans. "Gardener" connotes flowers more than edibles; "farmer" and "grower" suggest fulltime professionals, and "subsistence farmer" conjures up hardscrabble sharecropping. Our closest term is kitchen or cottage gardeners. The author highlights eight gardens, each created and nurtured by people whose pleasure in growing things and deep reverence for the earth are powerfully and poetically expressed - especially captivating since few of them would be comfortable writing their observations and experiences. The reader feels privileged to sit in on the dialogue between author and subject - lush descriptions jump off each page, allowing us to see, smell, taste, and feel the bounty of these gardens. Each day's sequence of harvesting, preparing, preserving, and eating, along with endless garden tasks, including saving the best seeds for the next year's planting, come to life.
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Format: Hardcover
THE EARTH KNOWS MY NAME: FOOD, CULTURE, AND SUSTAINABILITY IN THE GARDENS OF ETHNIC AMERICANS isn't just from a single gardener's perspective: master gardener Patricia Klindienst traveled across the country for three years to write this, gathering stories of urban and rural gardens from American gardeners whose immigrant roots reflect their gardening choices. Hers combines a history of how immigrant Americans grew food and transmitted cultural background in the process, with chapters blending their oral stories with such background. It's a wide-ranging title which will interest not only gardeners, but any intrigued by immigrant history and cross-cultural encounters.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Slovak/Croatian Gardener on November 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. I just wish I could get it back. It is so beautiful that my sister hasn't yet returned it, she just keeps rereading it. I wanted to write Patricia, thank her and plead with her to write the rest of the stories she collected. I could use two or three more of these books. She did such a beautiful job collecting the stories of people who don't feel part of the mainstream American culture, but rather part of the soil itself. Her writing is sensitive, lyrical and haunting. It sticks with you, uplifting you and helping you understand that you are not alone in your love of the land. Absolutely and perfectly beautiful.
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