In this episode, writer, geologist and professor of environmental studies at Mount Holyoke College Lauret Savoy, author of Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape, talks with Associate Editor Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky about seeing with new eyes, how landscape leaves its traces on us, and the unvoiced history of the American continent. Savoy argues that contending with both the beauty of American landscape and the violence of American history requires recognizing that the power to segregate memory has worked in concert with the power to segregate people throughout American history, and how a fragmented understanding of human experience on this continent has led to an artificial separation between ideas about nature and ideas of race, concepts that were intimately connected even before this nation began.
Lauret Edith Savoy’s life and work draw from her need to put the eroded world into language, to re–member fragmented pasts into present. A woman of African American, Euro-American, and Native American heritage, she explores the stories we tell of the American land’s origins—and the stories we tell of ourselves in this land. For her, writing of the complex intertwinings of natural and cultural histories is a way of seeking home among the ruins and shards that surround us all. The work is as necessary as breath. Savoy’s newest book, Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape (Counterpoint Press), won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, was a finalist for both the PEN American Open Book Award and Phillis Wheatley Book Award, and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. She co-edited with Alison Hawthorne Deming The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World (Milkweed Editions). She also compiled and edited Bedrock: Writers on the Wonders of Geology (with Eldridge and Judy Moores) and co-authored Living with the Changing California Coast (with Gary Griggs and Kiki Patsch). Savoy’s essays and other writings have appeared in Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, Huffington Post, Travel & Leisure, ArtForum, Christian Science Monitor, and Orion magazine, as well as in books such as Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril. She is a professor of environmental studies and geology at Mount Holyoke College, a photographer, and pilot. Winner of Mount Holyoke’s Distinguished Teaching Award, Savoy has also held fellowships from the Smithsonian Institution and Yale University. She is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America.
Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky is Associate Editor of the Kenyon Review and NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor of English at Kenyon College. He was guest editor of the Fall 2016 special issue of KR entitled “The Poetics of Science.”