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The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  137 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Patricia Klindienst crossed the country to write this book, inspired by a torn and faded photograph that shed new light on the story of her Italian immigrant family's struggle to adapt to America. She gathered the stories of urban, suburban, and rural gardens created by people rarely presented in books about American gardens: Native Americans, immigrants from across Asia a ...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Beacon Press (first published 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 393)
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I'm not a gardener, but this is an absolutely fascinating book that lives at the intersection of politics, culture, the food industry, and (of course) gardening. It's built around the stories of immigrant gardeners: what they brought from the "old country", how they brought it, why it's important. And more important, it's about what we've lost through the food industry, and how that can be regained.

Worth reading on many, many different levels.

It's really more of a 3.5 rating, but Goodreads doesn't offer half stars, so I rounded up the rating for this enjoyable read.

The book is a collection of stories about the author visiting various immigrant families and their gardens. Each family has been kept together or strengthened or healed by their gardening, in many cases across generations. Throughout the book, Klindienst subtly but powerfully advances the argument that growing our own food is healthy for the planet, our families, and the c
This is a really lovely collection of stories of gardeners and farmer's market scale farmers across the US and their cultural reasons for maintaining the practice (mainly, she's saying, it's the need for conection to memories of a life before being plunged into a foreign, non-farming-based culture). One of the chapters focused on my paternal aunt and uncle, who have an organic farm in Espanola, NM, my hometown. Some parts of the interviews with them made me choke up, sentimental weakling that I ...more
Dec 22, 2008 Ann is currently reading it
Klindienst brings gardening back to its essential and practical, as well as, passionate roots via the lens of different ethnic approaches. Based on in depth interviews that had her traveling all over the United States, to walk in widely varying gardens with its their knowledgeable tenders, Kliendienst offer stories with practical and scholarly information that brings the reader back to the passionate, sensual wisdom of our great grand parents.
Will Szal
People have been talking about food justice for years. They're also been talking about local food. From a completely different angle, this book happens to unite the two [way back in 2006]. Food justice doesn't just compliment local food in a practical way; food is culture. Everyone in the US came here at some point in history, and brought some form of culture with them [even the Native Americans, although we don't know what their culture was like before they were native]. And these cultures all ...more
Gardens are about taking care. Of land, of plants, and of ourselves in the end. This "radical" notion pervades the stories of the ethnic gardeners covered in this book . Through the act of tending gardens, these ethnic gardeners find their place in the world. It's a joy to read about each gardener's favorite crops or the family history embedded in gardening traditions. It's often heartbreaking to hear the suffering or indignities they have endured in their homeland or in America.

A theme touched
The writing in this book was a little sentimental at times, but that's really my only criticism. I loved this book for introducing me to an amazing group of people who come from many different cultures, and have many different gardens, but the same kind of love for the land and the food that comes from it. Klindienst focuses on one or two gardeners in each chapter, and provides some background on their culture and the larger conflicts that led them to America (whether from a foreign land or the ...more
While I was irritated by the author's continual use of the present tense, the vivid adventures of those who came to the U.S. for so many different reasons captured my imagination and my attention. The common thread of the sense of peace and timelessness they all nurtured in their gardens and the connection gardening gave them to their ancestors resonated with my own gardening experiences. If you have a middling tolerance for flowery prose, it is worth wading through to absorb the history and adv ...more
Aug 04, 2007 Maria rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: For those who believe gardens are for more than growing vegetables
Shelves: earth
I believe in fresh, green, healthy, vegetables for all! This book and the stories here do as well. This book is composed of stories of gardeners. Not just any garden, cultural gardens. This author traveled the United States and interviewed farmers/gardeners who are not only growing a garden for food, they are also growing to preserve the cultures which they come from. I believe in community and urban gardening. This books shares amazing stories about amazing people, and I fell in love with garde ...more
Aug 21, 2008 Rhiannon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all gardeners
Shelves: gardening
Now I'm done with this book. I love it. I love reading books where each chapter is a different story but they are all of the same basic theme. This book follows the theme of immigrant farmers. Each story involves cultural history, the journey to America, and a deep connection to the Earth as a connection to familial history. The people in these stories are as real as people get. Determined, strong people who have been through hell yet still keep on going. This book is incredibly inspiring.
Smita Pamar
This was a wonderful read. She goes through 9 different groups of immigrants and basically poetically tells the story of their lives through their gardens. One of my favorites is on the Khmer garden. She goes through different social/political categories for each story, i.e. Freedom, Justice, Community. It is also a great read of political/social history, too.
Loved it. May have to switch things around in my ag history class to be able to teach it.
Her narrative voice is a little cloying at times, but the people she interviews and their family stories are amazing. A great way to spend the winter, reading this in little sips before bed. Ethnic studies and gardening in one lovely mash-up.
This is a good book if a bit sentimental. I appreciated the point of view of the author. I loved reading about the many different ways that people in America connect with farming and how that connects to their particular historical background (both their identity and the history of the place where they are farming now).
Klindienst writes beautifully about the gardens she visits. She tells the stories of people who garden because it connects them to their cultures, allows them to nourish life, be an expert in a world where they usually feel so alien. This is a great little book, with short, vivid stories told in lovely, rich poetic prose.
May 29, 2009 Janet rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
The issues this book presents won't be new to anyone who's read books like The Omnivore's Dilemma or Animal Vegetable Miracle, but the stories Klindienst has gathered are powerful, and she tells them skillfully and respectfully. Bonus for PacNW types: two of her interviewees are on Bainbridge Island.
Who knew Bartolomeo Vanzetti waxed lyric on his last days about his father's fabulous farm? I love how Klindeinst shows us various immigrants' lives, and how they use their gardens to either help them integrate into American society or help them keep connection with their original cultures.
This book tells stories of refugees and immigrants who have made a piece of Earth their own again by growing gardens with food and plants dear to their hearts and heritage. It is a wonderful glimpse in to the lives and culture of people not featured in most gardening magazines.
A wonderful tour of gardens around the country, grown by Americans who have immigrated from different parts of the world and at different times. Beautiful reminder of why ground and diversity are so important to the health of communities and the nation.
One of the best books I read this year, Klindienst shares a journey of appreciating gardens as sites of healing, reparative justice, hope, claiming and reclaiming cultures and selves, and feeding hearts and hopes as well as bodies.
I loved this book, even if it's reminders of our huge environmental dilemma we created for ourselves made my mind reel. The different farmers' stories are inspiring and make you want to go out and till some soil.
Wiley R
This was amazing. A wealth of information on native/historical farming practices still being practiced. It did get a little too cutesy about race/ethnicity at some points but overall incredible.
Fascinating look at sustainable gardening and the ways gardening can create and affirm a sense of ethnic identity. Several chapters deal with the Pioneer Valley.
Theresa C.
If you love gardening and family history, this is the book for you. Patricia Klindienst writes like an angel, and there's something for everyone in this beautiful book.
Holly Klump
As s board member for a developing community garden and avid gardener myself, this book was right up my alley. Inspiring, rich with history, love and food.
Lovely story of the author's journey into history, gardens and what makes us human.

Fantastic story about Sacco and Vanzetti - a real surprise.
Excellent look at the roles of gardening and farming in maintaining traditions within different ethnicities in the United States.
My all time favorite. I saw myself in the pages
Gayle Gordon
loved the punjab garden and the polish winemaker
May 01, 2008 Rachel marked it as to-read
Featured at the Lower East Side Tenement Musuem
C.M. Mayo
Strange, moving, beautiful.

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