Category Archives: Tiger of the Week

Tiger of the Week: Lauret Savoy ’81, Earth Scientist, Map Reader, ‘Memory Tracer’

By Jeanette Beebe ’14

Lauret Savoy ’81

Lauret Savoy ’81 (Courtesy Lauret Savoy ’81)

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