Nautilus

The Forgotten Landscapes of the United States

When Lauret Edith Savoy first heard the word “colored” at five years old, she saw herself as exactly that—full of veins as blue as the sky. Not long after, she learned another definition, steeped in racism. “Words full of spit showed that I could be hated for being ‘colored,’” she writes. “By the age of eight I wondered if I should hate in return.” Out of this painful history, Savoy has created something rich and productive—a body of work that examines the complex relationships between land, identity, and history.

Today, Savoy, who is of African American, Euro-American, and Native American descent, works as a geologist, a writer, and a professor of environmental studies at Mount Holyoke College. Her writing—described by New York Magazine’s “Vulture” as John McPhee meets James Baldwin—straddles science and the humanities.

Her most recent book Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape explores the tendency of U.S. history to erase or rewrite—both literally and in memory—the stories of

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