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The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,426 ratings  ·  273 reviews
“In me, there is the red of miry clay, the brown of spring floods, the gold of ripening tobacco. All of these hues are me; I am, in the deepest sense, colored.” From these fertile soils of love, land, identity, family, and race emerges The Home Place, a big-hearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist and professor of ecology J. Drew Lanham.

Dating back to slavery, Edgefi
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by Milkweed Editions
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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 ·  1,426 ratings  ·  273 reviews

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Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nature seems worthy of worship.

Lanham, a Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Clemson University, presents a wonderful gift - the story of his boyhood spent mostly outdoors in Edgefield, South Carolina. He pays tribute to his family's homestead, and its remarkable inhabitants - his strong grandmother, and schoolteacher parents. But mostly, the book is filled with homages to the beauty of nature. There's so much wonderful writing here, it was hard to pick out just a few passages, but as one who spent
Scott Neuffer
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the most monumental book I've read or reviewed about race relations in America. Lanham, a black naturalist, birder, and professor, shares his fond memories of his beloved family ranch in South Carolina. His land ethic, stemming from Leopold, Carson, and other conservationist luminaries, is unique in that it addresses a segment of the population historically dispossessed of land. His accounts of racism in the South are harrowing, while his passages on nature are gorgeous. This is a signif ...more
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As a teen and twenty-something I read loads of great nature writing from the 50s and 60s, and Lanham's style is definitely reminiscent of those years. I woke early this morning just to read before I went to work, and now I can't wait until the day is done so I can pick up that book again
A gorgeous, gentle memoir. I'm only halfway through, but this is already the best book I've read this year, surpassing 'Lab Girl' by a smidge.
Aug 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
"I'm a man of color . . . the red of miry clay, plowed up and planted to pass a legacy forward. There is the brown of spring floods rushing over a Savannah River shoal. There is the gold of ripening tobacco drying in the heat of summer's last breath. There are endless rows of cotton's cloudy white. My plumage is a kaleidoscopic rainbow of an eternal hope and the deepest blue of despair and darkness. All of these hues are me; I am, in the deepest sense, colored."

So begins J. Drew Lanham's memoir.
Lanham shares lyrically-written stories, deep connections to family, his strong sense of place, a passion for nature, and optimism and humor, along with the frustration of being the uncommon African American ornithologist in a predominantly white field. Every reader will be inspired and feel these connections. I highly recommend this book to book clubs!

Link to my interview with the author:
Like Drew Lanham himself, this book is big-hearted, funny, generous, and grounded in a deep love for the natural world. Aldo Leopold famously described how landowners write their signatures on the face of the land as they make management choices. In this memoir about growing up in rural South Carolina, Drew Lanham shows us how the land writes its own signature on us. This signature, part of the "colored" identity of Lanham, is revealed in these pages as indelible in ways that are deeply tied to ...more
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, library
This excellent memoir recounts the author’s experiences growing up in a hard working African-American family living on their own farm in South Carolina. Each chapter independently explores an aspect of his relationship with his family and/or his encounters with nature, then and now; together they provide an overview of the author’s unique perspective and the bedrock it is built on. Well-written, thoughtful, and thought-provoking.
Leslie Reese
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, nature
Despite being unevenly written, I really appreciate this book and ultimately found it strongly inspiring. I've been journaling in response....
Emma Hanlin
The content of this book is fascinating and crucial in the white-dominated field of environmental studies. Lanham focuses on his upbringing in a farm in South Carolina, the "Home Place," exploring how his connection to the land directed the course of his future and was complicated by the past (read: slavery). He writes about becoming an ornithologist despite feeling as though this wasn't something black boys did, the struggles of birding in the rural South as a man of color, his search to find h ...more
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best, most timely memoirs I've read, Lanham writes eloquently about his upbringing in rural South Carolina, and how he came to be a natural history professor, birder and conservationist. His example is inspiring, his humility refreshing, and his world-view, much-needed. He's a kindred spirit I hope to meet some day. ...more
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't begin to express how much I loved this book! I took my time with it and really savored it. ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I caught the tail end of a show on NPR that featured J. Drew Lanham speaking. He'd written an essay, Birding While Black, and also this book, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature. I can't recall what he said specifically in the two minutes of the interview that I'd heard, but I was intrigued and I tracked down this book. What a sense of place he creates. Everything is so vivid. It's a real treat to read someone who is so observant share it all with you. The birds, t ...more
Trish Remley
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was an easy 4 star rating for me, but the last four chapters elevated it to 5 stars. I am of somewhat similar age as Mr. Lanham and could relate to many of his childhood memories concerning events, tv shows, having parents as teachers and the importance of education, and BB guns of the time. Although I spent much of my summer time in a camp house my dad built in Maine with an outhouse, running around the woods, working in my grandparents vegetable garden, and swimming in the ocean, the ...more
John Moore
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, autobiography
Few books have been as enjoyable to read as The Home Place. Lanham, a master storyteller, writes beautifully about his homeplace and his life experience. It is a particular story with broad appeal. Lanham loves nature and his telling of his story draws the reader into their own love affair with nature. The Home Place is also a telling of the story of race in America. I was particularly moved by Lanham's attempt to connect with his family's history, a story with roots in slavery. Lanham, and his ...more
Jenny Belardi
Feb 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a BOOK. I wish more people knew about it. I heard about it from Jason Ward in his birding class. If books are supposed to let us walk in someone else's shoes, this is five stars all around. I learned so much in so few words, and felt like I was in the home place and so many other natural areas he talked about. Highly recommend. ...more
Oct 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
“I am a man in love with nature. I am an eco-addict, consuming everything that the outdoors offers its all-you-can-sense, seasonal buffet. I am a wildling, born of forests and fields and more comfortable on unpaved back roads and winding woodland paths than in any place where concrete, asphalt, and crowds prevail.”

“Being a birder in the United States means that you're probably a middle-aged, middle-class, well-educated white man. While most of the labels apply to me, I am a black man and there
Keith Taylor
Mar 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I came to this book after reading the "Birding While Black" essay several times at several different places on line. It's a very well done essay about an important subject, that I think all of us who share this pass-time and this science have to come to terms with. I've long felt that both the science and the "hobby" of birding will never achieve the importance they deserve until we can broaden the base, bring more people in. But when I think that while I'm out on some back country road or deep ...more
Although the family parts of the start were sweet, I think the latter parts were more interesting for me. Thoughts about hunting, Black belonging and history/lineage (especially in America), and reclaiming place were all discussions I find prickly and I liked hearing his perspective on these topics. On the whole though, I actually feel a little empty about it all, as though I was told a lot of things but still stayed mostly on the surface or maybe it’s just that it didn’t seem to have a strong e ...more
May 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“In the belly of a Blue Wall forest, every season howls through the hollows and rolls over the hills with a clarity that calls for worship. I know that I’m in the depths of a living, breathing thing.”

“As I wander into the predawn dark of an autumn wood, I feel the presence of things beyond flesh, bone, and blood. My being expands to fit the limitless of the wild world.“

I read the author’s memoir and then his book of poetry, Sparrow Envy, and I am quite certain they will both be my most important
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Memoirs are not my favorites, and this suffered from many of the typical flaws of the genre: self indulgent digressions, rambling narrative structure, and a lack of a clear and compelling story. Home Place is most successful in its plentiful and poetic descriptions of the natural world. The prose is frequently beautiful.
Eliz L
Sep 04, 2020 rated it liked it
This memoir contains lots of really lush descriptions and interesting perspectives on being a black man, raised in the south, who loves nature, hunting, birding, etc. It doesn't really hold together as a complete work. The writing is sometimes good and sometimes fine. I enjoyed learning about JDL's upbringing and appreciate his perspective. ...more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book about J. Drew Lanham's experience growing up as an African American in rural South Carolina. A poignant tale of place and nature, his descriptions of the natural landscape read like poetry. It's a beautiful book to read. ...more
Stephanie Fuhr
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Place and land and nature: how we tie these things together is critical to our sense of self-purpose and our fit in the world. They are the trinity. This is true for people everywhere, but nowhere is it truer than in the South.” Genius. Glad he shared his story. ❤️
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book feels like a generous gift - so personal and insightful and amazing. I hope to read parts of it again before it's due back at the library. ...more
Connections to nature. Roots. Especially birds.
Julie H.
J. Drew Lanham's The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature is a beautifully written memoir by a self-described wandering, wondering, watcher--an ornithologist and conservationist by profession--whose love of the wild was inspired by a childhood exploring and helping his family work their part of an inholding on USFS lands in Edgefield, South Carolina. The book is about nature, family, race, class, environment, and--above all else--it's about the importance of place. In t ...more
Susan Ferguson
Apr 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook, 2021, memoir
Excellent book and very interesting. I'd give this more stars if I could.
Lanham grew up on the Home Place, as they called it with his parents, brother and sisters and his grandmother. He spent a lot of time at his grandmother's across the way from his parents' house after his grandfather had died, to keep her company. He enjoyed helping his father on the farm, fixing fences, going fishing, etc. He loved the outdoors and the wildlife. He was fascinated by birds (lots of library fines from a relu
Julie Stielstra
Feb 07, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: birds, nature
I love adjectives as much as anybody, and more than most. But there were times in Drew Lanham's mostly engaging and heartfelt memoir when I wanted to beg him to stop. That and the labored alliterative lists (yes, like that), and the similes (questions fly like dandelion fluff, trees grow thick as hair on a dog's back, bobolinks sing like discordant music boxes... though that last one is actually pretty good - they DO sound like that). It's a little like reading Faulkner or Proust - you just have ...more
La La
I am not going to rate this book because the author, in my opinion, spent way to much time trying to legitimize hunting and meat eating; almost glorifying it in some sections. He also spent time trying to demonize vegetarians/vegans saying land used for growing fruits, vegetables, and grains devastates natural habitat just as much, if not more, than raising meat; which is false. I don't want my aversion to butchering mammals for food to cloud my rating. Although it was definitely strongly forcin ...more
“On far too many Sundays I was pulled from the roaming rhythm and natural worship that truly fulfilled me. A church Sunday meant that God was suddenly confined to something that seemed much less miraculous than the woods and fields where creation was so evident.”

Lanham is a gifted storyteller sharing memories rich in detail and heart and offering sage perspective on land ethics, diversity, and race relations in outdoor spaces and wild places. The Home Place is a deeply felt homage to the virtues
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A native of Edgefield, South Carolina, J. Drew Lanham is the author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, which received the Reed Award from the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Southern Book Prize, and was a finalist for the John Burroughs Medal. He is a birder, naturalist, and hunter-conservationist who has published essays and poetry in publications inc ...more

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