Friday, November 09, 2007

A Book About Gardening Even a Non-Gardener Could Love

Klindienst, Patricia. The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans. Beacon Press, 2006.

It's hard not to be inspired and touched by Klindienst's book, about the role gardens and gardening play in the lives of particular Americans. I'm not so thrilled by the "Ethnic Americans" in the title--ultimately, every American has some sort of ethnic background. But the gardeners Klindienst profiles do relate their gardnening very much to their ethnic heritages; they garden in the ways they did in their countries of origin, or the way their ancestors here did.

Klindienst describes the gardeners, their backgrounds and life stories, their gardens (I loved the list of fruits and vegetables each grows), and how they garden. Many of the gardeners are immigrants (from Laos, Italy, Puerto Rico); some are 2nd or 3rd generation (Japanese, Polish), some are African-American, and some are native American.

The parts that inspired me were the descriptions of how community gardens helped rebuild a community (Puerto Ricans in Massachusetts), and how sustainable some of the practices were. Klindienst makes it clear that there is a lot of wisdom to be gained by learning the old ways.

This book is part biography, part history, part social studies, and part gardening. Occasionally Klindienst could gush a bit about the gardeners, and I sometimes felt guilty for not being a gardener, or getting all my foodstuffs from local growers. That feeling peaked in the middle of the book, then subsided. Despite that, I'd highly recommend this book.