“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 Clemson professor of ecology, Dr. J. Drew Lanham.
History of the Mann-Simons House:
Located on the northeast corner of Richland and Marion streets within the heart of downtown, this property was home, work place, spiritual center and a source of pride for members of the same African American family from 1843 through 1970. Formerly enslaved Charlestonians, Celia Mann, a midwife, and Ben Delane, a boatman, became the first generation of family members to live on the property and laid a social and material foundation that allowed successive generations to pursue a variety of businesses and social undertakings.
"A deep and abiding connection to the pastures and forests of South Carolina defines J. Drew Lanham's remarkable, boundary-breaking memoir, The Home Place. Lanham has created a book of monumental social, political, and philosophic importance. He shows that the land sustains life, yes, but also how it heals and nurtures our shared humanity."
- Foreword Reviews
“Here is an extraordinary and trailblazing perspective on nature and race, told by a southern black man who became a natural scientist and a bird watcher. J. Drew Lanham’s colorful and long-awaited memoir deeply enriches our understanding of American culture and the environmental movement, rising as it does from the silence of an entire people. This is a captivating and crucial biology and a volume that I'll proudly add to my bookshelf.”
- Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
“Wisdom and generosity fill the pages of The Home Place. This memoir and story of a familial ecosystem is anchored firmly in the Piedmont clay of South Carolina that J. Drew Lanham's enslaved ancestors worked and would later come to own—and love. A man 'born of forests and fields,' Lanham thinks deeply about the land writ large and our connections to it as well as to each other. His honest and insistent words encourage us to cultivate a broader, deeper perspective that recognizes ties between race and environment in deliberate ways.”
- Lauret Savoy, the author of Trace
"Your world will change while reading this beautiful, deep and generous book. A book by a scientist that goes far beyond science, a book by a black man that looks issues of race in the eye but then transcends them, a book by a loving son who, in the end, finds a new identity, The Home Place is really about what it means to be human, and in particular what it means to be human in relationship to the land. It is a love song to family, soil, trees, birds, and to wildness itself. Read it and be enlarged."
- David Gessner, the author of All the Wild that Remains
Join us for this evening event to celebrate our connections with nature.
Explore the history of the recently-renovated Mann-Simons house while you enjoy light hors d'oeuvres, beer & wine, and meet fellow conservationists.
You will have the opportunity to talk with Drew and have your book personalized, and hear him read selected passages from the book. (Reading at 6:00pm)
Event is FREE and open to the public.
Reviews of The Home Place:
Dating back to slavery, Edgefield County, South Carolina—a place “easy to pass by on the way 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.” 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.
"A shrewd meditation on home, family, nature, and the author's native South."
- Kirkus Reviews
"The Home Place is a work of undeniable poetry. Like John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and other trailblazers before him, Lanham writes rapturously of the natural world, of its majesty, sublimity, and wonder. He writes of being “colored” by the fields and the soil and the water, both in spirit and manifested in the beautiful hue of his skin."
-Michelle Schingler, Associate Editor, Foreword Reviews
"A lyrical story about the power of the wild, J. Drew Lanham’s new book, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair With Nature, synthesizes his own family history, geography, nature, and race into a compelling argument for conservation and resilience."
- National Geographic
"A beautifully rendered and deeply personal story of the complex geographies of home, and displacement. The Home Place is a deft examination of how we come to define ourselves in a world that, in turn, is relentlessly trying to define who we are—and how we can take those definitions over and make our own. The ghosts of the past are more than just reliquaries of loss and memory; they are resources of our history, our story, our flight through life."
- Sierra Magazine
South Carolina Wildlife Federation