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Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape (Paperback)
This book is a brilliant and unique musing on American history and landscape. Lauret Savoy is a mixed race woman and professor of geology and environmental studies. Her search for her ancestors leads her to landscapes, including borderlands of the southwest, the Grand Canyon, Washington D.C., and her birthplace in California. Inevitably the role of race in American history is part of her family’s history. Savoy details the inaccuracies, silences, and omissions throughout American history, including the Black Codes in Washington D.C. and South Carolina, land grabs from Mexico and Native peoples, and the disappearance of African American towns. An important book as we struggle to understand and overcome the wrongs of history and the impact on our current lives.— From Joan's Picks
November 2015 Indie Next List
“Savoy's Trace may be the most relevant book published this fall. This lyrical and sweeping essay on race, memory, and the American landscape covers ground sadly neglected in nature writing. Its ethical argument -- that the way we treat the environment is inextricable from how we treat our fellow human beings -- is one we should all pay close attention to, now more than ever.”
— Stephen Sparks (W), Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA
Winner of the ASLE Creative Writing Award
Winner of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation
Finalist for the PEN American Open Book Award
Finalist for the Phillis Wheatley Book Award
Shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing
Shortlisted for the Orion Book Award "I stand in awe of Lauret Savoy's wisdom and compassionate intelligence. Trace is a crucial book for our time, a bound sanity, not a forgiveness, but a reckoning." --Terry Tempest Williams Sand and stone are Earth's fragmented memory. Each of us, too, is a landscape inscribed by memory and loss. One life-defining lesson Lauret Savoy learned as a young girl was this: the American land did not hate. As an educator and Earth historian, she has tracked the continent's past from the relics of deep time; but the paths of ancestors toward her--paths of free and enslaved Africans, colonists from Europe, and peoples indigenous to this land--lie largely eroded and lost. In this provocative and powerful mosaic of personal journeys and historical inquiry across a continent and time, Savoy explores how the country's still unfolding history, and ideas of "race," have marked her and the land. From twisted terrain within the San Andreas Fault zone to a South Carolina plantation, from national parks to burial grounds, from "Indian Territory" and the U.S.-Mexico Border to the U.S. capital, Trace grapples with a searing national history to reveal the often unvoiced presence of the past. In distinctive and illuminating prose that is attentive to the rhythms of language and landscapes, she weaves together human stories of migration, silence, and displacement, as epic as the continent they survey, with uplifted mountains, braided streams, and eroded canyons.
About the Author
Lauret Savoy is a woman of mixed heritage, and a professor of environmental studies and geology at Mount Holyoke College, where she explores the intertwinings of natural and cultural histories. She writes about the stories we tell of the origins of the American land and the stories we tell of ourselves in this land. Her books include The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity and the Natural World; Bedrock: Writers on the Wonders of Geology; and Living with the Changing California Coast. She lives in Leverett, MA.