Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Publication Date: 2013-10-15
GENRE: Non-fiction. As a collection of essays, the book can be read all together, or each essay can be enjoyed on its own.
CURRICULAR THEMES: Indigenous Knowledge, Native American History, Botany, Environmentalism, Preservation.
An inspired weaving of indigenous knowledge, plant science, and personal narrative from a distinguished professor of science and a Native American whose previous book, Gathering Moss, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing. As a botanist and professor of plant ecology, Robin Wall Kimmerer has spent a career learning how to ask questions of nature using the tools of science. As a Potawatomi woman, she learned from elders, family, and history that the Potawatomi, as well as a majority of other cultures indigenous to this land, consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowing together to reveal what it means to see humans as "the younger brothers of creation." As she explores these themes she circles toward a central argument: the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the world. Once we begin to listen for the languages of other beings, we can begin to understand the innumerable life-giving gifts the world provides us and learn to offer our thanks, our care, and our own gifts in return.
A beautifully written mix of nature writing, science, history, indigenous knowledge, and memoir. The essays opened me up to a new way of thinking about the relationship between science and other ways of knowing and about the importance of gratitude and reciprocity with the earth. I was lucky enough to read much of this book while sitting outside. Listening to the birds and trees as I read was a wonderful experience. Wall Kimmerer has a wonderful gift of writing about nature so that you feel like you are there with her.
In the essay "Asters and Goldenrod," Wall Kimmerer compares the vibrant yellow and blue of the co-occurring flowers with the pairing of science and appreciation of the beauty of nature. As a college student, the author struggled to find her place in courses that focused on memorization or disimpassioned examination. Only later she was able to bring in an indigenous way of knowing, of looking at plants and their relationship to us did she find her way as a botanist. -- Kendall Faulkner, Social Sciences Librarian