Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature” as Want to Read:
The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  321 ratings  ·  62 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
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Home Place, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Home Place

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.24  · 
Rating details
 ·  321 ratings  ·  62 reviews

More filters
Sort order
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
Tama Filipas
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.
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:
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-read
I read this because J. Drew Lanham was coming to Lawrence to give a talk. Sadly we ended up leaving town that afternoon and I wasn't able to make it to the talk, which is too bad because I liked this book. It was both meditative and lyrical, and I like the subjects. It also worked for the Book Riot 2018 challenge - read a book about nature.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful meditation on land, nature, and an African-American man’s connections to both.
Dottie Head
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.
Melissa Matthewson
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed the perspective, the point of view, the geography and landscape, the narrator's humor. I'm teaching it in my spring nature writing course and we've had some very important and thoughtful conversations about nature, race, and identity. Highly recommend the book!
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Such a satisfying book, capturing how the author and all of us fall in love with nature while roaming free as children. Lanham is funny and wise as he shares his journey as a black man in rural SC, academia and the world of ornithology and birding.
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
Mary Cassidy
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was powerful, inspiring, and moving. I want to meet the author, hope we can get him to come to South Carolina State to do a reading. Gave me ideas of how to move on with the memoir I am working on. I identified with much of what he wrote. My only tiny quibble was that I wish the publisher had included an insert of photographs instead of just using them for the Frontispiece. Maybe in a second printing? Am lending my copy to a friend, but I hope many many people will buy this and pass it on.
Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Much of this book reminded me of how wonderful it was to be a child who was free to roam through nature. Mr. Lanham grew up on a farm and his love for fields and forests and wildlife led him to be an ornithologist. He talks about what it is like to be the rare African American out in the mountains or forests or deserts, but it is his wandering, and wondering, as a child that brought that magical feeling back to me of being a child free to discover the natural world.
Thanks to Milkweed Press for t
Sarah Boon
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is, above all, a joyous book. One that I feel is on par with Rick Bass's The Wild Marsh. Lanham loves nature and isn't afraid to say so, but he is also quite aware of the conundrum of being a black man in nature, in a country where being black is so difficult (to out it mildly). There are a few things that could be improved - for example, adding an essay on the land he's managed to obtain and is now managing. But overall I enjoyed it.
Sandy D.
This is a beautiful, thoughtful book in so many ways. It's a wonderful memoir about growing up on a small farm in South Carolina. It's an intimate examination of the land and history of the piedmont region, between the mountains and the sea, with many perceptive insights into race and racism and ecology and land ethics and birds and belonging. Read it, especially if you have recently read Jesym Ward's "Sing, Unburied, Sing".
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A truly wonderful read. Drew Lanham's story is profound and his writing lyrical. His book is a treasure. Once finished, It is like a book of poetry and can be reread in parts and pieces for the joy of it. I am ordering my third copy. I am compelled to give away copies as gifts!
Mary T
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Layman's style of writing resulted in my "seeing, smelling, feeling" the places, animals,birds, sites he described..
Kathleen Mickelson
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a beautifully-written memoir that examines place, race, and family, with a bit of ecology included. Lanham's examination of how he came to be an ornithologist is thoughtful and honest.
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
J. Drew Lanham's writing grew on me. What began as flowery prose, something I enjoy in small doses, quickly became too much, like an abundant bouquet of fragrant flowers that overwhelms a small room. And then, just as I was beginning to think "enough already!" the prose changed, or perhaps it was that the prose turned to more details about Lanham's life, or maybe I simply acclimated to his writing.

Whatever the case, I found myself not wanting to put down his story, and ultimately wishing he had
Becky Norman
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful writing carries this book along. Through quiet self-reflection, Lanham touches on the influence of family -parents, grandmother, siblings- and the church, the society in which he grew up, his first experiences hunting, searching for his roots, and ultimately the influence of the "home place" itself.

My only gripe with the "package" (and it's an extremely minor one) is that I didn't get what I was expecting, in terms of "a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature." Nature wasn't referenced
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved hearing Drew read his own poetic words on the Audiobook. It was simply divine and added much more to the words on the page. Poetry needs to be read out loud and he blessed us with this treasure.

I felt like sitting with him by a campfire and listening to the stories of his upbringing and the humorous, racist, and spiritual experiences that influenced the extraordinary human being that he is today.

What Drew adds to the world of nature writing is the intimate knowledge of what being a Bla
Bryony Angell
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dr. Lanham is a Distinguished Professor of ecology at Clemson University, and the subject of the viral videos Rules for the Black Birdwatcher and Birding While Black. This memoir grew from essays he wrote for Orion and other publications and is both a love letter to his family's land in South Carolina and an observation of birding and science culture from his perspective as a black man.

I loved this book for how it transported me to the woods Lanham loves and for the beautiful efficiency of his w
Lisa K
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
A picturesque memoir of growing up in rural South Carolina. Though both Lanham's parents hold college degrees and teach, they are also dedicated small-scale farmers, raising beef and pork for themselves and enough vegetables to be able to sell some. Though the family has a modern ranch house, the author spent most of his time in his grandmother's older house with its wood stove and tin roof. Lanham grows up to be a naturalist who hunts; a black ornithologist collecting field data in places that ...more
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
This was a wonderful book. I was drawn to it because I spend winters in SC not too far from Clemson and the area where the author grew up and now lives. I heard about it from my birding group. I am so happy to have read it.

It touches on so many topics and the writing is descriptive and powerful. The author talks about race and the realities he faces without pointing fingers. He shares his feelings on family, home, sense of place, and religion without lecturing. It is an open and honest sharing
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lanham is a really beautiful writer and he evokes place, time, and memory with rewarding specificity. He writes with a clear vision and a lot of love for Edgefield County and his memories there. He has such a strong love for his family and their achievements and it was kind of a constant joy and surprise - I don't know the last time I read someone writing about their family with such immense (not to say simplistic) gratitude. His coming of age is also the history of his family, and of Edgefield ...more
« previous 1 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Nature Literature: The Home Place discussion 20 29 Feb 03, 2018 08:43PM  
One Hundred Miles...: Favorite Quotes 1 3 Oct 30, 2017 08:54AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Land
  • Providence of a Sparrow: Lessons from a Life Gone to the Birds
  • Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals
  • The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World
  • My Backyard Jungle: The Adventures of an Urban Wildlife Lover Who Turned His Yard into Habitat and Learned to Live with It
  • Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
  • Field Notes from a Hidden City: An Urban Nature Diary
  • Last of the Curlews
  • Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds
  • The Wolverine Way
  • Listening to a Continent Sing: Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific
  • Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living Lightly on the Earth
  • The Way of Ignorance and Other Essays
  • The Grail Bird: Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker
  • Noodling for Flatheads: Moonshine, Monster Catfish, and Other Southern Comforts
  • Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter
  • The Fly Trap
  • Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town
See similar books…
“I believe the best way to begin reconnecting humanity's heart, mind, and soul to nature is for us to share our individual stories.” 3 likes
“To save wildlife and wild places the traction has to come not from the regurgitation of bad-news data but from the poets, prophets, preachers, professors, and presidents who have always dared to inspire.” 2 likes
More quotes…