Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Nonfiction Book Reviews: Braiding Sweetgrass...

Braiding Sweetgrass

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Published: October 15th, 2013 by Milkweed Editions
Genre: Nonfiction, Science
Format: Paperback, 391 Pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

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. 

My Thoughts:

I loved everything about this book! She asks some tough questions about what it means to be apart of nature. How can we take what science has to offer and what her ancestors' wisdom has to offer us about how to take care Mother Earth? She weaves her own background, her ancestors' stories, science, and what plants can teach in how to do this.

Her first story is about Skywoman. She's fallen from the sky and immediately receives help from a goose, a turtle, until they realize she needs land to rest upon permanently. But no animal can make it all the way down to the bottom of the water to bring her some land...except for the muskrat, who sacrifices itself for her and brings up some mud only to lose its own life.

"Skywoman bent and spread the mud with her hands across the shell of the turtle. Moved by the extraordinary gifts of the animals, she sang in thanksgiving and then began to dance, her feet caressing the earth. The land grew and grew as she danced her thanks, form the dab of mud on Turtle's back until the whole earth was made. Not by Skywoman alone, but from the alchemy of all the animals' gifts coupled with her deep gratitude. Together they formed what we know today as Turtle Island, our home."

She compares this with another story from across the waters...a woman with a garden and a tree...

"But for tasting its fruit, she was banished from the garden and the gates clanged shut behind her. That mother of men was made to wander in the wilderness and earn her bread by the sweat of her brow, not by filling her mouth with the sweet juicy fruits that bend the branches low. In order to eat, she was instructed to subdue the wilderness into which she was cast."

"One story leads to the generous embrace of the living world, the other to banishment. One woman is our ancestral gardener, a cocreator of the good green world that would be the home of her descendants. The other was an exile, just passing through an alien world on a rough road to her real home in heaven...And then they met--the offspring of Skywoman and the children of Eve--and the land around us bears the scars of that meeting, the echoes of our stories."

Stories are powerful. This sets up the rest of the book. How do Westerners with creation stories like these respond to a land that our ancestors have taken? Do we listen to those who've cultivated for centuries and millennia or do we assume we know best because we take and never give back? How do we treat the earth like we are truly indigenous to it?

Each section and each essay within that section dissects exactly this. This is one I'll be going to again and again. I can't recommend it highly enough!

Source: Goodreads

Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes edited by David Roessel

Published: January 1st, 2006 by Sterling
Genre: Nonfiction, Poetry, Juvenile
Format: Hardcover, 48 Pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

My Thoughts:

I read this one aloud with G for Poetry month in April. We really enjoyed learning more about Langston Hughes and his poetry. The Illustrations were also vivid and dynamic. They really brought the poems to life. I love this Poetry for Young People series. I've never been a big poetry reader except for high school and a bit in college so I really love diving in this way.


  1. The first author seems to have much wisdom to offer. We could benefit by looking at the land & animals in a different way than we have been! And Langston Hughes's poetry is awesome. Thx for sharing these.

    1. The way she writes and looks at the world has really blown my mind. Just loved everything about it!


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