Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape

Lauret Savoy. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-61902-573-8
In reverential, elegiac prose, Savoy (The Colors of Nature), a professor of environmental studies and geology at Mount Holyoke College, meditates on the meaning of history and identity as related to place. Savoy’s parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were “free and enslaved Africans, colonists from Europe, and people indigenous to this land,” and she has “long felt estranged from time and place, uncertain of where home lies.” In trying to connect with her family’s past, she travels to Oklahoma, where she was told some ancestors may have lived. She spends a day in the Black Heritage Center archives at Langston University, learning of early African-American homesteads, and visits the rural town of Boley, Okla., founded in 1903 on land owned by Creek Indian freedwoman Abigail Barnett. Though Savoy does not unearth any concrete evidence linking her mother’s family to the area, she gains further appreciation for the lives people lived and the hardships they endured. Exploring her father’s familial ties to Washington, D.C., Savoy contrasts the slavery-oriented history of that “invented place” with the enthusiastically mixed crowd she saw during the 2009 inauguration of President Obama. Savoy’s deep knowledge of the land opens up intriguing new avenues for exploring the multifaceted, tumultuous nature of American identity. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/07/2015
Release date: 11/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-61902-825-8
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