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Jessica J. Lee (CA)

Dispersals: On plants, borders and belonging

Dispersals: On plants, borders and belonging

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The prize-winning and bestselling author of Two Trees Make a Forest turns to the lives of plants entangled in our human world to explore belonging, displacement, identity, and the truths of our shared future

A seed slips beyond a garden wall. A tree is planted on a precarious border. A shrub is stolen from its culture and its land. What happens when these plants leave their original homes and put down roots elsewhere?

The themes in these fourteen essays become invigorating and intimate in Lee’s hands, centering on the lives of plants like seaweed, tangelos, and soy, and their entanglement with our human worlds. Lee explores the rich backstory of cherry trees in Berlin; a tea plant that grows in the Himalayan foothills just southwest of China; the world of algae and wakame, and the journeys they’ve made to reach us.

Each of the plants considered in this collection are somehow perceived as being “out of place”—weeds, samples collected through imperial science, crops introduced and transformed by our hand. Lee looks at these plant species in their own context, even when we find them outside of it.

Dispersals draws a gorgeous, sprawling map of the diaspora of flora. Combining memoir, history, and scientific research in poetic prose, Jessica J. Lee meditates on the question of how both plants and people come to belong, why both cross borders, and how our futures are more entwined than we might imagine.

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JESSICA J. LEE is a British-Canadian-Taiwanese author, environmental historian, and winner of the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature, the Banff Mountain Book Award, and the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writer Award. She is the author of Turning, Two Trees Make a Forest, and the children’s book A Garden Called Home, and co-editor of the essay collection Dog Hearted. She is the founding editor of The Willowherb Review and teaches creative writing at the University of Cambridge. She lives in Berlin.

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