As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these lenses of knowledge together to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings are we capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learning to give our own gifts in return.
Not exactly the most traditional of books to be reviewing, and even less so on this blog. But once again I find it pertinent to mention and at least disseminate this knowledge into the world, so here we are! Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants is more of the full title, and gives you a better glimpse as to what the book is about. If you’re ever looking for something that is more worldly, but still told like a story, please feel free to give this one a try!
I chose this book as a way to connect to the community but also because of its scientific relevance which I found appropriate for my background. I found it extremely intellectually stimulating and emotionally evocative, and if you also have a science background, undoubtedly you will find an extra connection to the words of the author. But even if not, all the information is very easy to absorb, and I promise you the journey is worth it.
Kimmerer takes us through a whole journey in four parts, named after the process of braiding sweetgrass. In each chapter, she evokes imagery of different flora and fauna, giving her view of the world through her Indigenous (and scientifically-trained) lens. In this way, we truly get to appreciate how these two perspectives can actually be reconciled, very different from the way that Western culture has really tried to tear the two apart.
Aside from this book being a very personal and emotional journey, it also teaches us much along the way of how we can be kind to each other and how we can all relate, even from an outsider perspective. I highly recommend this read! It won’t be anything hard-hitting in terms of really putting you through the works, but I still found it deeply engaging and meaningful in its own way. It really was a message of hope and optimism, but also real about the journey still left to go.
Braiding Sweetgrass follows an Indigenous woman’s journey as she recalls her struggle to reconcile her Western academic scientific training and her Indigenous heritage. She walks us through her journey and what we can learn along the way from both sides. A truly evocative story, it is a bit special on this blog as it is non-fiction! If you’re looking for something different from our usual YA suggestions, feel free to pick this one up as a journey into the unknown. I’m almost certain you’ll like what you find!