July’s Wonder Pens Reads: Braiding Sweet Grass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

When we first launched having a book of the month, we selected the first several months of our monthly book picks at one go to be able to get everything organized, all our ducks in a row, notecards printed, etc. Despite this, I’m still a bit late to launching July’s. And really, if I was better at planning these things, I might have done a little re-organizing as June is National Indigenous History Month, and this book might have been a nice fit. Our pick for July is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been making an effort to read more Indigenous authors, and it’s been eye-opening to say the least. It started several years ago with Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian (which is a terrific place to start if you’re looking), and there have been a couple of other excellent titles since then. I hope to share a list with you soon. If you have anything that you think I should add or read, I would love for you to reach out.

Braiding Sweetgrass is a non-fiction book about ecology and the earth and Indigenous ways of building, honouring and celebrating their relationship to the earth. It weaves Indigenous wisdom and stories and culture and knowledge with scientific ideas and methodologies and the author’s training as a botanist and a scientist and a professor. It sounds a bit intense when I put it like that, but it’s highly readable, and I promise (!) it’s well worth the effort. Robin Wall Kimmerer is an Indigenous scientist and professor, as well as a mother.

If you’re interested in nature, climate change, the environment, this book is definitely for you, but even if you’re not particularly, I truly feel like this is also a book for you, especially in this season as we’ve slowed down, and maybe spent a bit more time looking out at the trees.

There is history, ecology, loss, Indigenous culture, motherhood, language, friendship, food, philosophy, home, mythology, pedagogy, fear—and there are stories. Each chapter is its own story and its own exploration of our relationship to the earth. Gathering maple syrup, weaving baskets, making a pond swimmable again for her daughters, salmon moving, growing vegetables, watching the rain, baking strawberries into a birthday cake.

It’s unsettling to have your eyes pried open a little bit to the vastness between the relationship Indigenous people have with the earth and how much we’ve taken, but the lessons are there for all of us, in the small ways we can heal our own relationship to the earth, wisdom for the journey, small shifts in what we see and what we’re looking at. It’s one that bears reading and re-reading, and you can dip into chapters individually or read through it as a whole.

We’ll carry this book for the month of July and then onwards until we sell out. Each copy will come with a notecard for you to take notes on the back as you’re reading, or to use as a bookmark, or to keep however you like.

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