The Home Place
“Wise and beautiful.” —HELEN MACDONALD
Winner of the 2017 Southern Book Prize
Winner of the Reed Award from the Southern Environmental Law Center
Finalist for the John Burroughs Medal
Named a “Best Scholarly Book of the Decade” by The Chronicle of Higher Education
“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, a big-hearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist J. Drew Lanham.
Dating back to slavery, Edgefield County, South Carolina—a place “easy to pass by on the way to somewhere else”—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.