The Earth Knows My Name

The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic America

Patricia Klindienst: The Earth Knows My Name

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In the early 1970’s Studs Terkel traveled across the country interviewing people about their work, and eventually compiled the interviews into the book Working. In the early 2000’s, Patricia Klindienst took a similar approach, traveling around the USA to interview ethnic gardeners, immigrants who maintain their cultural identity through their connection to the earth.

While The Earth Knows My Name will never be a musical, it is a marvellous testament to the importance of earth and water, seed and plant, and in sustaining not just our ethnic roots, but also our whole selves. Her words bring to life the feeling of warm sun on your back while you plant corn, or crisp autumn mornings harvesting beans. She lets you smell the scent of flowers, but also taste the flavor of language, in her profiles of 15 gardeners.

This book is well written, it is poignant, and it is gently honest, with the author’s love of gardening, and sincere respect for her subjects masking the inevitable political undercurrents.

My only complaint is that there should have been more pictures – I craved a coffee-table presentation, with Klindienst’s words matched to lush photographs.

But maybe the mind’s eye is the better viewing choice. Buy the book, and decide for yourself. Better yet, buy the book, and plant a garden.