Trace

By Lauret Savoy,

Book cover of Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape

Book description

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…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked Trace as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

To read Trace is to go on a mesmerizing journey with the wisest of guides. Savoy searches for American identities, and her own multifaceted ones, in the history and memory of landscapes across the continent. Every turn reveals tragic histories and surprising connections and omissions with the most beautiful language. Savoy excavates the palimpsest of stories embedded in landscapes’ histories in a helpful reminder that “nature” is always entangled with the richness and complexity of human life. With each careful word, Savoy deepened my appreciation for how landscape absorbs and reflects its history—and my admiration for her unbelievable gifts as…

Trace is a masterful combination of history, personal voyaging, and explorations of geological time, blended together in a powerful vision of American landscapes suffused with politics, loss, and memory. Savoy takes us from the San Andreas Fault to the U.S. capital, through national parks and a plantation in South Carolina, attentive in each place to the meetings of natural history and human pasts marked by race, colonization, and migration. Savoy’s prose is luminous, her historical eye unsparing and keenly attuned to what erodes away. It’s a hard book to summarize, but if you live in the United States, will teach…

From Bathsheba's list on humans and their relationship with nature.

A beautifully constructed memoir written by a geologist, examining her own mixed-race heritage, national stories and myths, and environmental justice across the continent. Savoy travels the country searching for the ephemeral threads connecting herself to her African-American and Native American heritage, and in so doing explores everything from the destruction of all-Black towns to the imposition of dislocated European place-names on the North American landscape. In the end, she writes that “each of us is, too, a landscape inscribed by memory and loss."

From Mckay's list on environmental justice.

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