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The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature Hardcover – October 11, 2016
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Praise for The Home Place
"The Home Place is a groundbreaking work about race and the American landscape, and a deep meditation on nature, selfhood, and the nature of home. It is thoughtful, sincere, wise and beautiful. I want everyone to read it."Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk
"When you’re done with The Home Place, it won’t be done with you. Its wonders will linger like everything luminous. You might find yourself hoping for a world where every family has a J. Drew Lanham in it."Star Tribune
"Consider is required readingit's a thoughtful and relevant-as-ever look at race and identity in the great outdoors."Outside
"A lyrical story about the power of the wild, J. Drew Lanham’s new book, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair With Nature, synthesizes his own family history, geography, nature, and race into a compelling argument for conservation and resilience."National Geographic
"A beautifully rendered and deeply personal story of the complex geographies of home, and displacement. The Home Place is a deft examination of how we come to define ourselves in a world that, in turn, is relentlessly trying to define who we areand how we can take those definitions over and make our own. The ghosts of the past are more than just reliquaries of loss and memory; they are resources of our history, our story, our flight through life."Sierra Magazine
"A deep and abiding connection to the pastures and forests of South Carolina defines J. Drew Lanham's remarkable, boundary-breaking memoir, The Home Place. Lanham has created a book of monumental social, political, and philosophic importance. He shows that the land sustains life, yes, but also how it heals and nurtures our shared humanity."Foreword Reviews
Here is an extraordinary and trailblazing perspective on nature and race, told by a southern black man who became a natural scientist and a bird watcher. J. Drew Lanham’s colorful and long-awaited memoir deeply enriches our understanding of American culture and the environmental movement, rising as it does from the silence of an entire people. This is a captivating and crucial biology and a volume that I'll proudly add to my bookshelf.”Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
Wisdom and generosity fill the pages of The Home Place. This memoir and story of a familial ecosystem is anchored firmly in the Piedmont clay of South Carolina that J. Drew Lanham's enslaved ancestors worked and would later come to ownand love. A man 'born of forests and fields,' Lanham thinks deeply about the land writ large and our connections to it as well as to each other. His honest and insistent words encourage us to cultivate a broader, deeper perspective that recognizes ties between race and environment in deliberate ways.”Lauret Savoy, the author of Trace
"Your world will change while reading this beautiful, deep and generous book. A book by a scientist that goes far beyond science, a book by a black man that looks issues of race in the eye but then transcends them, a book by a loving son who, in the end, finds a new identity, The Home Place is really about what it means to be human, and in particular what it means to be human in relationship to the land. It is a love song to family, soil, trees, birds, and to wildness itself. Read it and be enlarged."David Gessner, the author of All the Wild that Remains
"J. Drew Lanham's The Home Place teems with lifenotably the author's own remarkable one. This wise and deeply felt memoir of a black naturalist's improbable journey travels the hallways of academia, the fields and forests of ornithological study, and the dusty clay roads of the rural south where it all began with grace, humility, and an abiding appreciation for this exquisite world."William Souder, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of the Birds of America
"Through his observations of loblollies and church sermons, vireos and southerners, Lanham provides another model, harvesting affection for a place that is not always receptive to it. His writing style fosters integration by drawing together the narratives of slavery and conservation and the languages of science and literature. The Home Place thus supports a promising shift in an age-old dialogue increasingly aware of diversity's role in propagating holistic communities and resilient ecosystems."Brevity Magazine
"Rapturous and Illuminating. A shrewd meditation on home, family, nature, and the author's native South."Kirkus
"Insightful personal narrative, a nostalgic and fervent examination of home, family, nature, and community."Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Born and raised in rural South Carolina, J. Drew Lanham is an Associate Professor and Certified Wildlife Biologist in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Clemson University. While he is widely published in his scholarly field, "The Home Place" will be his first book for a general audience. He lives in Seneca, SC.
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Top Customer Reviews
Lanham writes with humor and also a great understanding of nature : human and wild! A good read.
I love the concept of a sense of place. How does the place where you grew up affect you for the rest of your life. This book certainly provides Drew Lanham's amazing sense of place.
Drew Lanham is a gifted writer and I appreciate his sharing of these deeply personal experiences.
But the story is far deeper than that. It's the story of a smart, imaginative boy eventually turning into a college professor (at Clemson), growing in understanding and finding purpose and meaning in his family story, his profession, and in nature itself. He's disadvantaged by being a man of color, yet greatly advantaged by quite remarkable parents and grandparents, growing up on a working farm but one that had both parents as teachers, as well, a house with hone grown food, but also books and magazines and ideas. The relationship with his grandmother is quite a story in itself, quite vividly told (she lived on the farm as well). The descriptions of his parents and siblings are remarkably good. One chapter tells of getting a bb gun for Christmas, and killing a bird--and coming to a boy's kind of epiphany.
He became a birder on his way to a doctorate in wildlife biology. Some of the chapters use birding as a kind of metaphor. One chapter, "Birding While Black" is about being, as he writes, that thing almost as rare as an ivory-billed woodpecker, a black birder. His stories about church are remarkably interesting. although his religion now is the miracles in nature. Another unusual chapter is about his becoming a hunter--I'm a vegetarian and do not approve of hunting for sport, but this chapter, well, makes it seem less of a problem, and the venison of the deer he shot fed the family and friends--this is not so easy to describe but is a powerful portion of this powerful book. Another powerful chapter describes his grandmother's life, in a kind of kaleidoscopic manner. Here's a sentence: "Charles Lindbergh flew an airplane across an ocean she's never seen. The world celebrated the achievement but to Ethel it seemed simply another thing done by white men with too much time on their hands."
And another portion: "In her ninety-six years Mamatha [his name for his grandmother] was a witness to the extremes of good and bad that humanity visits on itself. She watched war and peace cycle like the seasons. She saw night-riding Klansmen terrorizing to oppress a people and a tired Birmingham seamstress sitting down to help those same people stand up."
There's also some powerful musing on his own roots, some of it wry in finding white folks with the same last name. He's not particularly political, but does not shy away from history. He retains optimism, and thinks it essential that black folks connect with nature--or as he argues, reconnect with the land that so many have roots in.