This program welcomes poet and scholar Camille T. Dungy for a reading and conversation surrounding her essay collection, Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden. Soil is a seminal work that expands how we talk about the natural world and the environment as Camille tends her garden to reflect her heritage.
In Soil, Camille recounts the seven-year odyssey to diversify her garden in the predominantly white community of Fort Collins, Colorado. When she moved there in 2013 with her husband and daughter, the community held restrictions about what residents could and could not plant in their gardens. In resistance to the stifling and restrictive policies, Camille employs the various plants, herbs, vegetables, and flowers she grows in her garden as metaphor and treatise for how homogeneity threatens the future of our planet. In doing so, she is able to use this practice to exemplify why cultivating diverse and intersectional language in our national discourse about the environment is the best means of protecting it.
Definitive and singular, Soil functions at the nexus of nature writing, environmental justice, and prose to encourage you to recognize the relationship between the peoples of the African diaspora and the land on which they live, and to understand that wherever soil rests beneath their feet is home.
This reading is followed by a moderated conversation with Denele Hughson, an audience Q&A, and an author signing. You can purchase your own copy of Camille’s book, Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden, at City of Asylum Bookstore.
About the Author:
Camille T. Dungy is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan UP, 2017), winner of the Colorado Book Award. She is also the author of the essay collections Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden (Simon & Schuster, 2023) and Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood and History (W.W. Norton, 2017), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Camille has also edited anthologies including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry and From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great. A 2019 Guggenheim Fellow, her honors include NEA Fellowships in poetry (2003) and prose (2018), an American Book Award, two NAACP Image Award nominations, and two Hurston/Wright Legacy Award nominations. Camille’s poems have been published in Best American Poetry, The 100 Best African American Poems, the Pushcart Anthology, Best American Travel Writing, and over thirty other anthologies. She is University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University.
About the Moderator:
Denele Hughson (she/her) is the Executive Director of Grow Pittsburgh–an urban agriculture non-profit with a mission to teach people how to grow food and to promote the benefits that gardens bring to our neighborhoods. Denele is a Pittsburgh native who is passionate about food security in the Greater Pittsburgh region. In 2008, she graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a B.A. in Political Science. Denele served as an AmeriCorps KEYS volunteer, followed by several years of working at nonprofits across the city including the Community Empowerment Association, the Student Conservation Association, and the YMCA. While earning her M.S. in Public Policy & Management at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, Denele had internships with the Smithsonian Institution and the Pittsburgh Public School district. After graduating in 2013, she served as the Mentoring/Women’s program coordinator with Pittsburgh Jobs Corps Center before coming to Grow Pittsburgh. Denele serves on the board of directors for PA Certified Organics and is a member of the Pennsylvania Food Policy Council Advisory Committee. She also serves on the Pittsburgh Food Justice Fund Taskforce and the Pittsburgh Food Summit Planning Committee.
About Your Visit:
City of Asylum Bookstore is open from noon to 6p.
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