Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer was the selection for the One Book, One Community read-in sponsored by the Salem Quarter Indian Affairs Committee. The discussion took place over the winter in the comfort of our own homes through dial up and/or log in access called Zoom.
When I googled this title, I found two interesting things. One is that 4,182 people liked it well
enough to write a review for Goodreads, with a 4.6 out of a possible 5 rating. That seemed
quite good to me for a nonfiction book.
Even more appealing, I noticed when I googled the book that Longwood Gardens featured
Braiding Sweetgrass in 2015 as its Community Read selection. On the Longwood Gardens
website, go to events/blogs and enter Braiding Sweetgrass in the search box. You will find a
beautiful description of the book, complete with gorgeous photos of Longwood Gardens, and
quotes from the author, Robin Wall Kimmerer. This recommendation alone makes it worth
checking out the book.
What is fascinating to me about this book is that while it is primarily considered a work of
nonfiction written by a science professor, it is extremely readable. It weaves together many
genres. The author tells of personal experiences with nature as a type of memoir. She brings in
myths and legends about the environment. Throughout the book are references to the Citizen
Potawatomi Nation of which she is a member. She describes scientific facts about ecology in a
way that is easy to understand. Spirituality, poetry and even history can be found within the
pages. The full title of this book is Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific
Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.
Considering this book’s relevance to Quakerism, one of the main queries Braiding Sweetgrass
addresses is Stewardship of the Environment. The book was published in 2013, and it took
seven years to write. It seems even more important today with looming environmental
challenges. The importance of the Quaker tenets of simplicity and community are well
documented as well.
I close with a quote from the publisher, Milkweed Editions:
“The awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our
reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of
other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our
own gifts in return.”
I write this review of Braiding Sweetgrass to encourage others to tell us about books they have
read that would have interest for our wider Quaker audience. Books with examples of our
Quaker tenets would be especially welcome, in addition to books about Quakersim in general.
submitted by Friend and librarian, GH