"[R]emarkable, wise, and potentially paradigm-shifting . . . [Braiding Sweetgrass] is a coherent and compelling call for what [Kimmerer] describes as 'restorative reciprocity', an appreciation of gifts and the responsibilities that come with them, and how gratitude can be medicine for our sick, capitalistic world." Guardian
“Robin Wall Kimmerer is writer of rare grace. She writes about the natural world from a place of such abundant passion that one can never quite see the world the same way after having seen it through Kimmerer’s eyes. In Braiding Sweetgrass, she takes us on a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise. She is a great teacher, and her words are a hymn of love to the world.”Elizabeth Gilbert
“Robin Wall Kimmerer has written an extraordinary book, showing how the factual, objective approach of science can be enriched by the ancient knowledge of the indigenous people. It is the way she captures beauty that I love the mostthe images of giant cedars and wild strawberries, a forest in the rain and a meadow of fragrant sweetgrass will stay with you long after you read the last page.”Jane Goodall
"I give daily thanks for Robin Wall Kimmerer for being a font of endless knowledge, both mental and spiritual." Richard Powers, New York Times
“Robin Wall Kimmerer opens a sense of wonder and humility for the intelligence in all kinds of life we are used to naming and imagining as inanimate.”Krista Tippett, host of On Being
"The author has given us a profound perspective of history, restoration, reciprocity, responsibility and hope. If we take only what we need and find ways to restore what we do take, we can take care of the earth and she will take care of us." Forbes, "All-Star Book Club"
"In a world where only six percent of mammalian biomass on the planet now comprises of wild animals, I longed for books that pressed me up against the inhuman, that connected me to an inhuman world. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer moved me to actual tears." Alexandra Kleeman, The Millions
"In Braiding Sweetgrass, botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer tackles everything from sustainable agriculture to pond scum as a reflection of her Potawatomi heritage, which carries a stewardship 'which could not be taken by history: the knowing that we belonged to the land.' . . . It's a book absorbed with the unfolding of the world to observant eyesthat sense of discovery that draws us in." NPR
"Botanist, professor of plant ecology, and Potawatomi woman Robin Wall Kimmerer merges her experiences within each of these identities and communities to explore nature through scientific, cultural, and philosophical lenses. She urges readers to examine their relationship with the natural world, and open themselves up to the idea that plants and animals have valuable lessons to teach us." BuzzFeed
"Kimmerer draws on her own experiences as a botanist and an indigenous woman to meticulously craft this book of essays about the importance of nurturing ecological awareness and developing a relationship with the natural world." Vogue
"[Kimmerer] weaves a beautiful narrative around the beauty of the natural world and the lessons it teaches us, which feels so important in these delicate times." Elle, "21 Books that Will Put You in a Good Mood"
"The author's 2013 book of essays on Native folkways concerning plants and their roles in human life is reissued here with new illustrations and design, a handsome production that well serves her engaging text, which will be of interest to readers schooled in the world of writers such as Wendell Berry, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Joy Harjo . . . A smart, subtle overlay of different systems of thought that together teach us to be better citizens of Earth." Kirkus Reviews
"This NYTimes best-selling book has been on my nightstand the past two years straight. Not because I haven't finished it, but because I find myself coming back to it for nourishment again and again." Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders
"Professor and botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer knows that the answer to all forms of ecological unbalance have long been hidden in plain sight, told in the language of plants and animals, minerals and elements. She draws on her own heritage . . . pairing science with Indigenous principles and storytelling to advocate for a renewed connection between human beings and nature." Outside
"Kimmerer eloquently makes the case that by observing and celebrating our reciprocal relationship with the natural world, one can gain greater ecological consciousness." Sierra Magazine
“With deep compassion and graceful prose, Robin Wall Kimmerer encourages readers to consider the ways that our lives and language weave through the natural world. A mesmerizing storyteller, she shares legends from her Potawatomi ancestors to illustrate the culture of gratitude in which we all should live.”Publishers Weekly
"Caring for plants is important. Published in 2013, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer is about just that. Seen through the eyes of a botanist and Native American, this non-fiction book asks many questions about botany, while looking to Native American traditions and Western science for the answers." British Vogue, "4 Emma-Watson-Approved Books"
“The gift of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book is that she provides readers the ability to see a very common world in uncommon ways, or, rather, in ways that have been commonly held but have recently been largely discarded. She puts forth the notion that we ought to be interacting in such a way that the land should be thankful for the people.”Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer is just beautiful. It makes the hours fly by and puts a shimmery haze on the edges of the world." PopSugar
“Braiding Sweetgrass is instructive poetry. Robin Wall Kimmerer has put the spiritual relationship that Chief Seattle called the ‘web of life’ into writing. Industrial societies lack the understanding of the interrelationships that bind all living thingsthis book fills that void. I encourage one and all to read these instructions.”Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper, Onondaga Nation and Indigenous Environmental Leader
"I want to give this book to everyone I know. There's a revelation on every page, like you're suddenly viewing the world from a slightly different angle." Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books
"[Kimmerer's] descriptions of our fellow living relations on Earth often brought me to tears of grief and gratitude." Erin Pineda, 27th Letter Books
"[Kimmerer's] eclectic wisdom filled my heart. Readers of Barbara Kingsolver and Wendell Berry will find much to savor in this beautiful meditation on what once was and could be again." Kris Kleindienst
"This beautifully steady book uses Sweetgrass as a guide for observation, respect, and indigenous wisdom, but it holds even more than that. Packed full of stories about many of the natural worlds' other inhabitants, Kimmerer breathes nostalgia, reciprocity, gratitude, hard work and practicality into every minutejust as she was taught." Katelynn Tefft, Third Place Books
"Equal parts Native American history, climate science, botany, and poetry, Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass slips in like a long bittersweet draft." Griffin Mauser, Bookpeople
Wisdom about the natural world delivered by an able writer who is both Indigenous and an academic scientist.
“This braid is woven from three strands,” writes Kimmerer, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation: “indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of an Anishinabekwe scientist trying to bring them together in service to what matters most.” The author’s 2013 book of essays on Native folkways concerning plants and their roles in human life is reissued here with new illustrations and design, a handsome production that well serves her engaging text, which will be of interest to readers schooled in the work of writers such as Wendell Berry, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Joy Harjo. In Anishinaabe belief, writes Kimmerer, sweetgrass “was the very first to grow on the earth,” a constant reminder of the creator called Skywoman. It holds a sacred role, and it represents an important component of what the author describes as “global ecosystems,” which speak to the possibility of positive interactions between humans and the natural environment, a welcome optimism given all the counterexamples one might produce of our destructive influences. Rethinking that possibility requires going to first principles. As Kimmerer writes, the English word bay is a noun, trapping a natural thing into a static category best reserved for dead things, whereas the Ojibwe word wiikwegamaa, turning the concept into a verb meaning “to be a bay,” “releases the water from bondage and lets it live.” Indigenous knowledge instructs those who seek healthy relations with their surroundings in many ways. Kimmerer writes of a teacher who directs us to walk in such a way “that each step is a greeting to Mother Earth” while the dread monster called the Windigo speaks metaphorically to our need to consume: “The more a Windigo eats, the more ravenous it becomes.”
A smart, subtle overlay of different systems of thought that together teach us to be better citizens of Earth.
With deep compassion and graceful prose, botanist and professor of plant ecology Kimmerer (Gathering Moss) encourages readers to consider the ways that our lives and language weave through the natural world. A mesmerizing storyteller, she shares legends from her Potawatomi ancestors to illustrate the culture of gratitude in which we all should live. In such a culture, “Everyone knows that gifts will follow the circle of reciprocity and flow back to you again... The grass in the ring is trodden down in a path from gratitude to reciprocity. We dance in a circle, not in a line.” Kimmerer recalls the ways that pecans became a symbol of abundance for her ancestors: “Feeding guests around the big table recalls the trees’ welcome to our ancestors when they were lonesome and tired and so far from home.” She reminds readers that “we are showered every day with gifts, but they are not meant for us to keep... Our work and our joy is to pass along the gift and to trust that what we put into the universe will always come back.” (Oct.)
Kimmerer (environmental & forest biology, State Univ. of New York Coll. of Environmental Science & Forestry, Syracuse) was awarded the 2005 John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing for her first book, Gathering Moss. In these beautifully written essays, she explores the natural world, wedding the scientific method with the traditional knowledge of indigenous people. Kimmerer herself is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Bringing together memoir, history, and science, she examines the botanical world, from pecans to sweetgrass to lichens to the three sisters (corn, beans, and squash), also describing moments of her past, such as boiling down maple sap to make syrup with her children. She shares her efforts to reclaim her culture through studying the language and learning to weave baskets. Intertwined throughout is the history of the injustices perpetrated against indigenous people and the land. Kimmerer writes of investigating the natural world with her students and her efforts to protect and restore plants, animals, and land. A trained scientist who never loses sight of her Native heritage, she speaks of approaching nature with gratitude and giving back in return for what we receive. VERDICT Anyone who enjoys reading about natural history, botany, protecting nature, or Native American culture will love this book.—Sue O'Brien, Downers Grove P.L., IL