Days getting longer, flowers blooming all over and a hefty dose of pollen in the air can only mean one thing: summer is upon us. At gal-dem, the shift of the seasons has got us thinking about the great outdoors – and the people who write insightful work about it. While nature writing has historically been a realm dominated by white, middle-class men, promising changes have blossomed in recent years. These include long overdue recognition for writers of colour working within the field, the publication of works by authors including Nina Mingya Powles, Jessica J. Lee and Jini Reddy, and the establishment of initiatives to support nature writing by underrepresented voices, such as the Nan Shepherd Prize. Where marginalised people are so often excluded from access to nature or the countryside, it’s important these voices are heard. Here’s our selection of the latest nature books, newsletters and magazines that traverse landscapes, environments and experiences.
Unearthed, Claire Ratinon
Organic food grower Claire Ratinon’s debut book explores the complexities of belonging and connecting to the land. Told through a personal memoir, she explores her own life and unearths the history of colonisation and slavery. “When I set out to become a food grower, I never imagined it would lead me to writing a book. But engaging in the act of growing food changed me from the inside out, enabling me to cultivate a deep connection with the natural world and sense of belonging that had – before then – been absent,” she tells gal-dem. “This journey has been so transformative that I felt compelled to write it into a story that I could share.”
Radicle, Decolonising the Garden
Founded by gardener Sui Searle, Decolonise The Garden is an online platform aiming to see gardening through the lens of antiracism, equality and justice. Their alternative gardening newsletter Radicle aims to compost dominant systems while “seeking a future in which liberation is a collective”. Radicle takes a weekly dive into the worlds and musings of gardeners, growers and nature lovers, touching on topics like neoliberal capitalism, volunteering in gardening and understanding what a weed is. Fun fact, ‘radicle’ is the name given to the primary root of the plant and it’s where the word word ‘radical’ comes from – forming the root.
Birdgirl, Mya-Rose Craig
Since she was young, Mya-Rose Craig has been obsessed with birds. In fact, birdwatching runs in the family – Craig’s parents took her on her first twitch when she was just nine days old. The family “stood out from the crowd” among white, middle-class birdwatchers, Craig writes, as her mother is Sylheti Bangladeshi. Since that first twitch, Craig, now 20, has seen more than 5,000 types of bird (half the world’s species) across seven different continents. Her new memoir, Birdgirl – the same name as her blog that she started in 2014 to document her bird sightings – is an exploration of this deep love for birds, intertwined with her family’s personal story and against the backdrop of the fight for climate justice. “Birds serve as a kind of canary in the coalmine for climate change,” writes Craig, who is also the founder of Black2Nature, an organisation supporting young people of colour living in cities to connect with nature.
Flock Together: Outsiders: Connecting people of colour to nature, Ollie Olanipekun and Nadeem Perera
Flock Together is a bird watching and nature group founded by Creative Director Ollie Olanipekun and sports coach Nadeem Perera in 2020 with the aim of helping to reconnect people of colour to the natural world through their birdwatching walks. Now, their debut book puts their practice into words, exploring their own connection to nature and how people of colour can also find home in the natural world through part memoir and part manifesto.
I Belong Here, Anita Sethi
After experiencing a racist hate crime, nature writer Anita Sethi sets out on a journey of reclamation through the natural landscape of northern England. The first in the trilogy, this powerful memoir exploring identity, place and belonging becomes a call to action. “I knew in every bone of my body, in every fibre of my being, that I had to report what had happened, not only for myself but to help stop anyone else having to go through what I did. I knew I could not remain silent, or still, I could not stop walking through the world,” writes Anita.
Testimonies on the History of Jamaica Vol 1., Zakiya McKenzie
Rough Trade and The Garden Museum teamed up to create a collection of four informative pamphlets exploring the “complicated” and “curious” nature of gardens and growing. Testimonies on the History of Jamaica Vol 1. by Zakiya McKenzie, who is a PhD candidate in Caribbean Literature, examines slave-owner and author Edward Long’s book History of Jamaica as “[Long’s] polemic supported the enslavement of African and Caribbean people and the monopolies and monocultures played out through the natural environment.” The series of pamphlets also includes Horticultural Appropriation by Claire Ratinon and Sam Ayre, which looks at why horticulture needs to be decolonised.