How I Became a Tree

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Yale University Press, Aug 31, 2021 - Nature - 248 pages
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An exquisite, lovingly crafted meditation on plants, trees, and our place in the natural world, in the tradition of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass and Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

“I was tired of speed. I wanted to live tree time.” So writes Sumana Roy at the start of How I Became a Tree, her captivating, adventurous, and self-reflective vision of what it means to be human in the natural world.

Drawn to trees’ wisdom, their nonviolent way of being, their ability to cope with loneliness and pain, Roy movingly explores the lessons that writers, painters, photographers, scientists, and spiritual figures have gleaned through their engagement with trees—from Rabindranath Tagore to Tomas Tranströmer, Ovid to Octavio Paz, William Shakespeare to Margaret Atwood. Her stunning meditations on forests, plant life, time, self, and the exhaustion of being human evoke the spacious, relaxed rhythms of the trees themselves.

Hailed upon its original publication in India as “a love song to plants and trees” and “an ode toall that is unnoticed, ill, neglected, and yet resilient,” How I Became a Tree blends literary history, theology, philosophy, botany, and more, and ultimately prompts readers to slow down and to imagine a reenchanted world in which humans live more like trees.

 

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Contents

I Paint Flowers So They Will Not Die
29
See the Long Shadow that is Cast by the Tree
63
Supposing I Became a Champa Flower
83
I Want to Do with You What Spring Does with the Cherry Trees
105
One Tree is Equal to Ten Sons
119
Lost in the Forest
149
Under the Greenwood Tree
177
The Tree is an Eternal Corpse
199
Epilogue
223
Notes and References
225
Bibliography
235
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About the author (2021)

Sumana Roy is associate professor of English and creative writing at Ashoka University in Haryana, India. She is the author of Missing: A Novel, Out of Syllabus: Poems, and My Mother’s Lover and Other Stories.

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