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
Through personal journeys and historical inquiry, this PEN Literary Award finalist explores how America's still unfolding history and ideas of "race" have marked its people and the land.
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.
A provocative and powerful mosaic that ranges across a continent and across time, 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. Gifted with this manifold vision, and graced by a scientific and lyrical diligence, she delves through fragmented histories--natural, personal, cultural--to find shadowy outlines of other stories of place in America.
Every landscape is an accumulation, reads one epigraph. Life must be lived amidst that which was made before. Courageously and masterfully, Lauret Savoy does so in this beautiful book: she lives there, making sense of this land and its troubled past, reconciling what it means to inhabit terrains of memory--and to be one.