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Camille Dungy on Environmental Justice and the Making of Soil

Recorded on 04/22/2024
Posted in TIE Podcast

TIE Podcast · Camille Dungy on Environmental Justice and the Making of Soil
Soil book cover

Camille T. Dungy, University Distinguished Professor of English at Colorado State University, joins Toward Inclusive Excellence Editor-in-Chief Alexia Hudson-Ward to discuss her latest book, Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden. An author of prose and poetry, Camille explains how she planned for the title to be a collection of nature poems, but while writing—crucially, in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic—she was instead inspired by her ongoing project to transform her yard into a space with diverse, native plants. Recounting the seven-year journey of her garden, Camille interweaves key environmental justice texts and nature writing to underscore the importance of diversifying both our gardens and environmental literature.

In the episode, Camille chats about the development of Soil and how the pandemic influenced her writing. Further, she highlights the drawbacks of cynical, doom-filled environmental writing that positions the natural world and human beings at odds. As Camille argues, this position prevents new members from joining the environmental movement, because “…a lot of people just assume that they have no place in the environmental movement because the environmental movement has no place for people.” In addition, Camille describes environmental justice as central to her writing and ethics, emphasizing social and environmental justice as one and the same. To close, she digs into her experiences with homeowners association (HOA) rules in her neighborhood and the complexity of her relationship with gardening and leisure as a Black woman.

About the guest:

Camille Dungy headshot

Camille T. Dungy
University Distinguished Professor, English
Colorado State University

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. Dungy 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. Dungy’s poems have been published in Best American PoetryThe 100 Best African American Poems, the Pushcart AnthologyBest American Travel Writing, and over thirty other anthologies. She is University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University.

Watch the video recording of the conversation:

Episode theme music: Black is the Night by Jeris (c) copyright 2014 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: DJ Vadim (djvadim) , NiGiD

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