Book Reviews

Braiding Sweetgrass: a book review

A woman from one of my facebook groups posted that she read a little of this book each morning to center herself. I immediately downloaded it from the library and began to read it over the summer. I loved how I would read about wild strawberries, just as I was finding them in my own yard. Because it is a long book, it took me a couple months to read, and I recommend that you do the same.

The Breakdown:

Robin weaves together stories from her Native American traditions in the Potawatomi Nation, her scientific studies as a botanist, and her own personal experiences. Each chapter of the book focuses on a tradition, story, or learning from her tribe. Usually it is something from nature that we can learn from today in the same way that her people learned from it in the past. For example, the third chapter is called The Council of the Pecans and tells about how the fruiting of Pecan trees produces an abundance every couple of seasons. This reminds us the power of many working together, the way everything is connected, and the wisdom of seasons of storing up versus seasons of production. This book is part essay, part memoir, and part historical accounting.

What I like about this book:

  1. These short essays were something quick I could begin my day with. I liked the combination of storytelling, scientific knowledge, and the artistic point of view.
  2. The way she compared the story of the Sky Woman to the store of Eve and how she imagined what it would be like if they met each other. This creatively displayed the mindset of two different cultures coming together.
  3. The constant focus on the returning to our connection with nature and living in gratitude.
  4. How she discussed the nuances of language and how it frames our view of the world.
  5. I especially liked the audio version, read in a soft, clear voice, passing along wisdom much like the oral tradition from generations before us.

Fair Warning:

  1. This can at times come across as too preachy or negative towards Western culture.
  2. This book is too long and repetitive for most people’s taste, so it is best not to read it all at once. I recommend just reading one chapter a week or even a month, or to only read the first half of the book. (The chapters were written as individual essays and work best read that way.)
  3. She writes poetically which I enjoyed but is not everyone’s cup of tea.

We Americans are reluctant to learn a foreign language of our own species, let alone another species. But imagine the possibilities. Imagine the access we would have to different perspectives, the things we might see through other eyes, the wisdom that surrounds us. We don’t have to figure out everything by ourselves: there are intelligences other than our own, teachers all around us. Imagine how much less lonely the world would be.”” -Robin Wall Kimmerer

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