I've been reading two memoirs of late:
Kaufman, Wallace. Coming Out Of The Woods: The Solitary Life Of A Maverick Naturalist. 2000.
Lanham, J. D. The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature. 2016.
Both share stories of intimacies with a landscape very similar to where i live now. Lanham writes of a piedmont landscape in South Carolina, while Kaufman writes about, literally, across the street and down ... a quarter of a mile? I picked up Lanham because of an essay he wrote about birding while black, Kaufman because i wanted to learn about the history of where i live. Last night i read much of Kaufman's book and realized how the two narratives offered intriguing points of comparison.
First, over my evening's readings i've grown to find little respect for Kaufman. He strikes me as a narcissist. I wonder how much of the affinity i feel for Lanham is that he's another southerner and Kaufman is a Yankee, despite living in North Carolina since his graduate student days. Lanham also grew up on the land, a more intimate farming background than i did, but one i recognize and my father would recognize. Kaufman is -- well, was -- a back to the woods romantic.
Lanham's story is the arc of his growing up and his family, and his deep roots on a patch of red clay in South Carolina. In some ways, i can read much of his story with great familiarity. My parents moved around a good bit as i was growing up, and they built homes (at one point, they had their own home building company). Lanham's story is of a single place and the work of efficient and sustainable use of their land. The forces of work and family shape Lanham, and he shares that. The force of race is there, too, not hidden, and yet ... i still feel more akin to Lanham than to Kaufman. Kaufman did not come from wealth, did not have class privilege from birth, yet the privilege that seeps out of Kaufman's narrative is revealed by its absence in Lanham's story. I don't know if i would have felt it if i hadn't been reading Lanham at the same time. Kaufman has a little awareness, i think...