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

Apr 24, 2017

J. Drew Lanham
Credit Clemson University

“In me, there is the red of miry clay, the brown of spring floods, the gold of ripening tobacco. I am, in the deepest sense, colored.” From these fertile soils—of love, land, identity, family, and race—emerges The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature (2016, Milkweed Editions) a big-hearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist J. Drew Lanham.

Dating back to slavery, Edgefield County, South Carolina has been home to generations of Lanhams. In The Home Place, readers meet these extraordinary people, including Drew himself, who over the course of the 1970s falls in love with the natural world around him. As his passion takes flight, however, he begins to ask what it means to be “the rare bird, the oddity”—to find joy and freedom in the same land his ancestors were tied to by forced labor, and then to be a black man in a profoundly white field.

By turns angry, funny, elegiac, and heartbreaking, The Home Place is a remarkable meditation on nature and belonging, at once a deeply moving memoir and riveting exploration of the contradictions of black identity in the rural South—and in America today. Drew Lanham joins Walter Edgar to tell about his journey and his love affair with nature.

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