Braiding Sweetgrass

By Robin Wall Kimmerer,

Book cover of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

Book description

Called the work of "a mesmerizing storyteller with deep compassion and memorable prose" (Publishers Weekly) and the book that, "anyone interested in natural history, botany, protecting nature, or Native American culture will love," by Library Journal, Braiding Sweetgrass is poised to be a classic of nature writing. As a botanist,…

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Why read it?

20 authors picked Braiding Sweetgrass as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This is a lovingly written and indispensable archive of Native natural wisdom. Every chapter is a revelation, explaining why we need to reject an either/or mindset and embrace a both/and vision that braids analysis and emotion, utility and beauty, modern science with ancient wisdom. Kimmerer is a Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She brings these two seemingly opposed roles together in this eye-opening series of accounts of what nature and, in particular, the sweetgrass plant, can teach us about collaboration, healing, and survival, about what we really have to be thankful…

From Ivy's list on .

After diving into environmental justice, environmental health, cancer, and toxins, readers may desire more positive, healing, and affirmative modes of interconnecting with the natural world. Robin Wall Kimmerer, who recently won the McArthur genius grant, offers a beautiful gift in this multilayered, wonderfully readable work. She generously gives us “a braid of stories meant to heal our relationship with the world.” The book is woven from three strands, “indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of an Anishinabekwe scientist trying to bring them together in service of what matters most.” When I taught this book in a college…

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a professor of environmental and forest biology, director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. This book is a beautifully written, deeply thoughtful meditation on her own experiences and perspectives as a scientist, a mother, and a person of Potawatomi heritage. She graciously brings us to a deeper awareness of our ecological crisis, inviting us to let go of our delusions of mastery and dominion and to learn fresh, new ways of living in an interdependent relationship with other beings, living and nonliving. 

I read Braiding Sweetgrass at a time when I felt crushed by the discriminatory agendas playing out politically in the United States. I was despondent about the possibility of people learning how to live together in the face of so much trauma and entrenched division. This book gave me hope for pluricultural democracy again. Kimmerer’s artful descriptions of daily practices of cultural reclamation remind me that resistance is not always a visible or enormous revolution. Sometimes it is the silence of being able to name the uses of the vegetation we walk past.

I love a book that strikes a perfect balance between respect for the tools of modern science, botany, and ecology, together with the understanding that arises from indigenous knowledge and ancient ways of understanding the world. I came away with a sense that modern learning is impoverished unless it is somehow connected with ancient approaches to knowledge. Professor Kimmerer clearly loves language, and her rich and lyrical narrative makes this book a pleasurable journey through fields and laboratories and ancient rituals. For a crusty plant scientist like me, this book reawakened an ecological consciousness where people, plants, and animals live…

From John's list on science and nature by scientists.

This is another poetic, lyrical, inspiring book. Kimmerer’s combined Indigenous and scientific ways of knowing—and how much truth she speaks as a mother and teacher—offers a warm embrace into thinking of the world as a most precious gift. When we receive gifts, we are humbled and feel compelled by joy to give back—what an astonishing, hopeful way to think about slowing down human-driven climate change. Kimmerer speaks from the heart. We can’t stop thinking about the “three sisters” (corn, beans, and pumpkins) and how they find room to grow around each other and help one another thrive in her garden.…

From Christina's list on inspiring lifelong learning.

At this point, it’s almost cliché to include Braiding Sweetgrass in a roundup of environmental books, but if ever there was a book worthy of being shared over and over, it’s this one! As an acclaimed plant ecologist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer is the master of marrying science with faith. To read her accounts of the natural world is to brush against magic.

I have given away many copies of this book and like to keep an extra copy handy so that I can give it to a friend or even a stranger when I sense they are seeking something that helps them understand how they are connected to the natural world. The first time I finished this book, I immediately began reading it again—it’s that important and that beautifully written. If I was to only have one book that I could keep and read this would be it. 

Braiding Sweetgrass weaves together indigenous wisdom about our times, the botanist author’s vast knowledge of plants along with her personal life stories. At one point, the author shares that indigenous teachings say we are at a time of choice, where there are two paths, one to death and destruction and another grassy and green. Although we are in such fraught times, Robin offers ways to restore our world that left me feeling hopeful. I also appreciated her struggles as an indigenous woman becoming a scientist, dealing with both sexism and two very different world views. Somehow, in this book, Robin…

From Ellen's list on women’s true stories.

My personal encounters with indigenous ways of knowing began over forty years ago, and I still have much to learn. Toward that end, I was thrilled to discover this book, which holds a special place on my shelf. In it, Kimmerer braids the wisdom of her Elders with scientific teachings as deftly as the women of her family braid sweetgrass.

From Deb's list on how nature talks to us.

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