Writer, teacher, geologist, photographer, and pilot, Lauret Savoy, Ph.D., is also a woman of mixed African-, Native-, and Euro-American heritage. Through explorations of her ancestry and her academic pursuits, she unearths the nuclei of connections that enable people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds to bond with the land.
Dr. Savoy’s ties to nature and the outdoors were solidified when she was a young child experiencing racism in the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. She learned then that, whether it was a river named Potomac or a canyon called Grand, the American land did not hate.
As a professor of Environmental Studies and Geology at Mount Holyoke College, she explores how braided strands of human history and Earth history contribute to the stories people tell of the land’s past as well as to the identities we form. Sand and stone are Earth’s memory, and Dr. Savoy’s work speaks to how each of us, too, is a landscape inscribed by memory. To live in this country is to be marked by residues of its still unfolding history, residues of silence and displacement across generations. Dr. Savoy offers how to search for and discover these marks, reconciling what it means to inhabit terrains of memory—and to be one. This work and much of her life draw from questioning how to put the eroded world into language, how to re-member—or piece together—fragmented pasts into the present.
Dr. Savoy’s experiences come alive in evocative prose in her writings, including her forthcoming book Trace (Counterpoint Press, 2015). In The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World (Milkweed Editions, 2011), provocative essays explore the intersections of cultural identity and ecological awareness. The book features original work from more than thirty contributors of color, including Jamaica Kincaid, Joseph Bruchac, Yusef Komunyakaa, Nikky Finney, Kimiko Hahn, Robin Wall Kimmerer, bell hooks, Gary Nabhan, and Francisco X. Alarcón, among others. Booklist called the volume an “unprecedented and invaluable collection of forthright and bracing essays by writers of ‘diverse cultural origins and disciplinary backgrounds’” that weave diverse experiences of place to create a larger and more textured cloth than the largely monochromatic tradition of American nature writing or of the mainstream environmental movement.
Dr. Savoy also edited Bedrock: Writers on the Wonders of Geology (Trinity University Press, 2006), which the Wall Street Journal picked as one of its five best science books, and co-authored Living with the Changing California Coast (University of California Press, 2005). She worked with the University Press of New England to re-issue Alien Land (E. P. Dutton, 1949), the long out-of-print novel on “Negro passing” written by her late father Willard Wilson Savoy.
Dr. Savoy has directed Mount Holyoke College’s Center for the Environment, and serves on the Board of Trustees for the National Parks Conservation Association. She also served on the board of directors of the Center for Whole Communities and Hitchcock Center for the Environment.