Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Hope Jahren, LAB GIRL
I liked this very much. In the vein of Elizabeth Gilbert and J.D. Vance, this bridges the genres of memoir and social-comment essay. Jahren writes about botany--the ways, for example, a parent tree supports a sapling by channeling water to it underground at night; the reasons the makeup of soil matters; the way trees communicate danger across miles; the way plants remember their beginnings. But she is also talking about herself, her own rather stark childhood, human communication, and parenting. The metaphor never becomes heavy-handed because, as she says at the end, plants are not people. She writes frankly about the difficulties of being a female academic in a male-dominated field and made me think also about the way gender inflects the stories that get told, the narratives that scientists produce in response to data. I think this book is brave, insightful, intriguing (I learned all kinds of interesting factoids about plants) and often amusing. Would definitely recommend.