By Jeanette Beebe ’14
“Read me, it called then. It still does,” writes Lauret Savoy ’81 in her new memoir, Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape, a finalist for the 2016 PEN Open Book Award and nominee for a Pushcart Prize.
This is how Savoy, a professor of environmental studies and geology at Mount Holyoke College, describes the beloved map she’s carried for years — a large, “creased, taped, and re-taped” roll she’s unfurled on every cross-country trip since Princeton, “since that day in college when Professor Judson handed out copies to his geomorphology class.”
Savoy’s map, as she recalls in Trace’s fifth chapter, “What’s in a Name,” is a hand-drawn and inked copy by “master cartographer-artist” Erwin Raisz. It’s also something she “reads” — which suggests that Savoy sees her map as something more than the shaded, textured terrain of “physiographic landforms”; her map, like Trace, is a text. And its style — precise yet expansive, even hard-to-pin-down — models Savoy’s unique background.
“I don’t define myself as a geologist,” Savoy says, though she earned a M.S. in earth sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University. Rather, Savoy identifies as a writer who uses her “experience and past work as an Earth historian” to explore themes of race, identity, culture, and heritage. Continue reading