“Braiding Sweetgrass” is Hampshire College’s 2023 Common Read
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer examines our relationship to the natural world through the dual perspectives of trained botanist and member of the Citizen Potowatomi Nation, encouraging a broader environmental awareness.
As part of Hampshire’s commitment to deepening our understanding of the relationship to the land we occupy, developing embodied land acknowledgements, and repairing relationships with local Native communities, the College has selected Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants as the Common Read for the 2023–24 academic year.
The book, first published in 2013, embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. Kimmerer brings two lenses of knowledge together — that of a scientist and a member of an Indigenous tribe — to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the recognition and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. Through a series of essays, she explores the connection between living things and human efforts to cultivate a more sustainable world.
Braiding Sweetgrass was named a national bestseller by the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. Elizabeth Gilbert praised the book as “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise.”
Kimmerer is a professor of environmental biology, founder of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Her teaching, writing, and commitment to enacting principles of gratitude, reciprocity, and restoring a balance between human beings, animal life, and the land provide a critical opportunity for us to rethink our understanding of plants, ecology and all living creatures as teachers and providers of gifts that sustain and nourish us. Kimmerer’s first book, Gathering Moss, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing.
The Common Read originated as part of the College’s annual orientation program for new students. Each year, a Common Read book is selected to be read and discussed together as a community, helping to foster collective learning and interactive dialogues about urgent real-world problems. Students will have several opportunities to discuss the Common Read in their first year at Hampshire, beginning at orientation.
Learn more from the Common Read resource guide.