Book Review: Braiding Sweetgrass

This book was easily my favorite book all summer. It deserves all the hype and more. It should be required reading in high school.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants is a non-fiction series of short stories or vignettes told by Robin Wall-Kimmerer from her perspective as a professor of botany at SUNY and member of the Potawatomi tribe. She weaves (or braids…) these two perspectives together masterfully, creating a quite compelling book.

The main premise of the book is to dispel the notion that humans are inherently at odds with the land and natural world around us. I think most of us (or many Americans, at least) imagine “nature” as being completely separate from us. Nature is something we go to see on vacation. Nature needs to be protected from humans. Wherever there are humans, nature will surely be ruined.

Through her stories, Wall-Kimmerer paints a different picture, one of a beneficial, reciprocal relationship between humans and the land. Inspired by her Potawatomi ancestry and bolstered by her doctoral degree in plant ecology, she tells us how in many ways the earth needs humans just as much as the humans need the earth and how we can be better participants in this relationship.

Maybe it seems obvious when I summarize it, but she brings the reader to her conclusions in a such a unique and beautiful way. It gently but firmly opened my mind. I mean it when I say this book should be required reading. There aren’t many books that I will re-read, but this book is one of them.

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