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Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribeby Charlotte Gill
Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction
Winner of the 2012 Foreword Magazine Editor's Choice Prize Nonfiction
Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Prize
Shortlisted for the Charles Taylor Non-Fiction Award
"Charlotte Gill writes with a dexterity and nobility that soars. This is the best book, on several fronts, that I've read in a long time."-Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company
During Charlotte Gills 20 years working as a tree planter she encountered hundreds of clear-cuts, each one a collision site between human civilization and the natural world, a complicated landscape presenting geographic evidence of our appetites. Charged with sowing the new forest in these clear-cuts, tree planters are a tribe caught between the stumps and the virgin timber, between environmentalists and loggers.
In Eating Dirt, Gill offers up a slice of tree-planting life in all of its soggy, gritty exuberance while questioning the ability of conifer plantations to replace original forests, which evolved over millennia into intricate, complex ecosystems. Among other topics, she also touches on the boom-and-bust history of logging and the versatility of wood, from which we have devised
"'Wherever men make it their business to cut down trees,' Gill writes, 'chances are you'll find people who make a job of putting them back.' In this admirable and occasionally poetic account, the reforester recalls her years spent with 'Johnny Appleseeds for hire.' They are an itinerant group, they aren't unionized, and they have 'no benefits, no holidays. When the work runs out we're laid off.' She details their efforts in Canadian forests, planting in rough-and-rugged areas that had previously been clear-cut, and though Gill (author of the short story collection Ladykiller) admits the experience is grueling, she finds satisfaction in it. She likes the feel of the soil between her fingers, and she describes the 'rituals and routines of planting' as being 'as familiar to me as boiling water or brushing my teeth.' Interestingly and refreshingly enough, Gill steers clear of politics for the most part. She makes little mention of environmental policy, for example, choosing instead to focus on the ordinary people whose actions speak volumes. The trees they plant each year 'shimmy in the wind. There, we say. We did this with our hands. We didn't make millions, and we didn't cure AIDS. But at least a thousand new trees are breathing.' For that, she can be proud-and it makes for a good story. "
Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Charlotte Gill is the author of the story collection Ladykiller, a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award. Her work has appeared in Best Canadian Stories, The Journey Prize Stories, and has been broadcast on CBC Radio. Her narrative non-fiction has been nominated for Western and National Magazine Awards. She spent nearly two decades working in the forests of Canada and has planted more than a million trees.
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