A New Book: Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape

A New Book: Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape

I am eager to tell you about my new book, Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape , which Counterpoint Press will release on November 10, 2015.

In a mosaic of personal journeys and historical inquiry across a continent and time, Trace explores how the country’s still unfolding history, and ideas of “race,” have marked a person and the land. 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,” Trace grapples with a searing national history to reveal the often unvoiced presence of the past. 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. Attentive to the rhythms of language and landscapes, I have tried to weave together human stories of migration, silence, and displacement, as epic as the continent they survey, with uplifted mountains, braided streams, and eroded canyons. Trace delves through fragmented histories—natural, personal, cultural—to find shadowy outlines of other stories of place in America.

Though deeply personal, Trace concerns who we all are in this terrain called the United States, inviting readers to have a more honest understanding of history’s impact in our lives. Put simply, the book is my attempt to seek home among the ruins and shards that surround us all, to reconcile what it means to inhabit terrains of memory—and to be one.

Trace could be in the company of Rebecca Solnit’s unbordered wanderings (from her 1994 Savage Dreams to the recent The Faraway Nearby), which seek deep connecting patterns. It also pays homage to Loren Eiseley’s Immense Journey to the mysteries of existence. Yet Trace 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.


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