The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham

The Home Place

“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, Edgefield County, South Carolina—a place “easy to pass by on the way some...

Details The Home Place

TitleThe Home Place
Release DateOct 11th, 2016
PublisherMilkweed Editions
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Environment, Nature, Science, Writing, Essays

Reviews The Home Place

  • Melki
    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 ...
  • Tama Filipas
    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 againA 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.
  • Scott Neuffer
    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...
  • Shirleynature
    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:
  • Susan
    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.
  • Misti
    I can't begin to express how much I loved this book! I took my time with it and really savored it.
  • Jen
    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 p...
  • Wendalina
    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 i...
  • 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 r...
  • John Moore
    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 histor...
  • Elizabeth
    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.
  • Simone
    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.
  • Melissa
    A beautiful meditation on land, nature, and an African-American man’s connections to both.
  • Dottie Head
    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.
  • Shana
    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.
  • Melissa Matthewson
    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!
  • Andrew
    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 recommen...
  • Dianne
    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
    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 grandparent...
  • Linda
    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 discove...
  • Mary Cassidy
    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 ho...
  • Sarah Boon
    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".
  • Geraldine
    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
    Layman's style of writing resulted in my "seeing, smelling, feeling" the places, animals,birds, sites he described..
  • Kathleen Mickelson
    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.
  • Laurie
    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 ...
  • Becky Norman
    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 ...
  • Anandi
    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 wri...
  • Bryony Angell
    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 Lanh...