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

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  667 ratings  ·  132 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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 ·  667 ratings  ·  132 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.
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:
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, non-fiction
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: nature, memoir
Despite being unevenly written, I really appreciate this book and ultimately found it strongly inspiring. I've been journaling in response....
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve had this book on my to-read list since September 2017, and after encountering the author on Instagram during Black Birders Week, I moved it to the top of the list (I have an excessively long to-read list so I’m years behind!) This book is gorgeous - full of beautiful writing, memories both bittersweet and lovely, thoughts on being a Black man in America, all woven together with an intense love of nature and all things wild. This was one of those books I tried to take my time with and savor, ...more
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.
Connections to nature. Roots. Especially birds.
Faith Huff
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
This book has lots of layers and all of them are lovely.
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a really beautiful portrait of a life bound to nature. Essential reading for all lovers of wild things.
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.
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-biography
This was an utterly beautiful book. Narrated beautifully by the author. Yes, I used ‘beautiful’ two sentences in a row, but I couldn’t help myself.
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.
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!
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A pleasant and insightful read

I read this memoir as part of a book club selection. I appreciate the author reminding me of the importance of nature and wild life, much of which I've lived detached from.
Also as I was reading the book, I often wanted to see photos of what Lanham describes in his memoirs. Too many of city folks don't have the kinds of connections to rural and scenic nature to visualize what it looks like.
The Home Place is a pleasant and sometimes insightful read that should inspi
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. ❤️
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The biography and memoirs of J Drew Lanham, an African American growing up in South Carolina.

This takes the reader to the heart of his life experiences. The family environment he grows up in, his love of the land and nature, experiences with racism, tracing his family history, the work he undertakes as an ornithologist and bird watcher is all very nicely captured in this book.

I felt very inspired by much of what he had to say and would recommend it to others.
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.
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
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