Clemson professor’s memoir lauds land and nature
CLEMSON — Land and nature can bind mankind together. That’s the theme of “The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature,” a new book penned by Clemson University professor J. Drew Lanham.
A native of Edgefield and an alumni distinguished professor of wildlife ecology and master teacher, Lanham said the work has been, “…some 50 years in the making.”
“My hope is that, by reading this book, others who look like me, who grew up like me and even those who didn’t grow up like me, have an opportunity to understand that land matters, that nature matters,” Lanham said. “My hope is that everyone understands we are a part of something greater that we need to care about.”
Lanham will discuss the idea that land and nature can bind together mankind during a book launch beginning at 6 p.m. Sept. 21 in the Self Auditorium of the Strom Thurmond Institute on the Clemson University campus. A reception and book signing will follow. The book is published by Milkweed Editions and will be available this September.
As a conservationist and a lover of nature, Lanham said he wants others to understand that “…land is everything. From the soil up and all of those things living in it — all the way up to trees and birds and wildlife — that we are ultimately a reflection of the earth that we come up on.”
The earth Lanham writes about in The Home Place includes the red, miry clay of his homeland in the South Carolina Piedmont
“If words can be a mirror, then that’s what ‘The Home Place’ is,” Lanham said. “It’s my story from as long ago as I can remember. It’s a reflection of my home place in Edgefield, South Carolina, to the current place where I live in the Upstate. It’s my story from when I was a little boy coming up in Edgefield and I wanted to fly, thus my fascination with birds. I lived vicariously, still live vicariously in many ways, through birds. This book is about me and how in me there is the red of miry clay, the brown of spring floods and the gold ripening of tobacco. I am, in the deepest sense, colored.”
Edgefield County has been home for many generations of Lanhams. Readers of “The Home Place” will be introduced to his parents, as well as other members of his family, his friends and people in the community who influenced his life as he was growing up.
In addition to “The Home Place,” Lanham has published essays and poetry in publications including Orion, Flycatcher and Wilderness Magazine. His first book of poetry, “Sparrow Envy,” was published by Holocene Press this past spring. His repertoire also includes entries in several anthologies, such as “The Colors of Nature,” “State of the Heart,” “Bartram’s Living Legacy” and “Carolina Writers at Home.”