15 Oct Welcome to Trace
Welcome to the website for Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Land. I am eager to tell you about my new book.
Sand and stone may be Earth’s memory, yet each of us, too, is a landscape inscribed by memory. My skin, eyes, and hair recall the blood of three continents as paths of ancestors—free and enslaved Africans, colonists from Europe, and peoples indigenous to this land—converge in me. As an Earth historian I’ve tracked the continent’s deep past, yet my own familial origins lie largely eroded and lost. To live in this country is to be marked by residues of its still unfolding history, residues of silence and displacement across generations. Trace offers my search for and discovery of these marks, reconciling what it means to inhabit terrains of memory—and to be one.
The book weaves historical inquiry with personal journeys across America and time. Chapters emerge from places explored, entry points into listening for the unvoiced past in this land and in my life. From twisted terrain within the San Andreas Fault zone to a South Carolina plantation, from national parks to burial grounds, from “Indian Territory” and the U.S.-Mexico Border to the U.S. capital, from a “land ethic” to “alien land.” Grounding all is the American Earth.
The title comes from my active search, from the paths of the journeys, and from the tracks or vestiges of what once was. Though deeply personal, Trace concerns who we all are in this terrain called the United States. It also insists on how human experience and the history of the American land itself have, in fragmented tellings, artificially separated what cannot be disentangled: nature and “race.”
Above all Trace trespasses supposed borders to counter some of our oldest and most damaging public silences. It reveals often unrecognized connections, such as the siting of the nation’s capital and the economic motives of slavery. None of these links is coincidental. Few appear in public history. All touch us.
I invite you to explore with me.