Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape
By Lauret Savoy
I can’t summarize better than this review:
“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…Trace grapples with a searing natural history to reveal the often unvoiced presence of the past.”
Robert MacFarlane identifies this book as falling in the “wider field or terrain of landscape-and-memory…” and indeed it seems to present a remarkable synthesis of self and nature, bearing witness to landscapes of personal history, culture, the physicality of the earth, how we shape it and how it shapes us.
The book echoes notes of grand geological investigations a la John McPhee, but also personal “family mysteries and wayfaring within larger racial, social, and cultural contexts…” As both an “Earth historian” and a “woman of mixed heritage”, Savoy reads both land and lives.
The book is “part memoir, part travelogue, part scientific text.” Its eight essays touch themes including geography, maps, deconstruction, discovery, place, prejudice, stewardship, landscape, identity, silences and omissions.
Savoy notes that “trace” can serve as both noun and verb. And one of the parts of the book that most intrigues me is its inclusion of “loving, exhaustless examination of American language…” This seems like a wonderfully collaged, poetic history; deeply compelling inquiry.