Clemson professor receives award for environmental writing
CLEMSON – When it comes to writing about the environment, Drew Lanham knows just what it takes to write pictures readers can see, feel, smell and touch. It’s this ability that has garnered him a 2018 Phillip D. Reed Environmental Writing Award.
Lanham received the award for his book, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature.
“I am honored to have received this award,” said Lanham, alumni distinguished professor of wildlife ecology in Clemson’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation. “It is validation that the words I wrote mean more than what I ever thought, imagined, recalled or reported. Winning this award, to me, means that other people find meaning and purpose in my words. It means even more to me having grown up as a black boy in the rural South.
“Winning this award shows that, amidst the struggles of being a black American, there are positive things we can hold onto.”
Shari Smith of Claremont, North Carolina and author of I Am a Town, nominated Lanham for the award. Smith said Lanham’s knowledge of the natural world and his ability to write about it in a manner that draws readers in, are what led to her decision.
“Drew’s knowledge is obvious and evident,” Smith said. “Maybe it’s even expected. Someone with as many degrees as he has should know something about the natural world. But I know of none who can teach us with such poetry. Each sentence is a perfect piece of magic, the collecting of words like feathers. I think you read Drew for the lovely ride and along the way you learn something.”
“I believe him to be a literary star, a rare talent. I can’t wait to see what he puts on paper next.”
Lanham received this award during the Reed Environmental Award Celebration held March 24. This award is given by the Southern Environmental Law Center each year for “superb journalism and works of nonfiction” about the southern environment.
Lanham’s book, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, dates back to slavery in Edgefield County where Lanham grew up. In the book, readers meet extraordinary people, including Lanham himself, who falls in love with the natural world around him. During his journey through life, Lanham begins to ask what it means to be different. He seeks to find joy and freedom on the same land in which his ancestors were slaves and, then, to find himself in a career dominated by white people. The book is said to be an “…exploration of the contradictions of black identity in the rural South, and in America today.”