Guidebook to Relative Strangers
Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History
by Camille T. Dungy
Pub Date 13 Jun 2017
An award-winning African American poet debuts in prose with a stunningly graceful and honest exploration of race, motherhood, and history.
As a working mother whose livelihood as a poet-lecturer depended on travel, Camille T. Dungy crisscrossed America with her infant, then a toddler. As they travel, Dungy is intensely aware of how they are seen, not just as mother and child but as black females. With a poet’s eye, she celebrates the particular in the universal, such as a child’s acquisition of language and what to pack in a diaper bag. At the same time, her horizons are wide, as history shadows her steps everywhere she goes: from the San Francisco of settlers’ and investors’ dreams to the slave-trading ports of Ghana; from snow-white Maine to a festive, yet threatening, bonfire in the Virginia pinewoods.
With exceptional candor, Dungy explores our inner and outer worlds—the multitudinous experiences of mothering, illness, and the ever-present embodiment of race—finding fear and trauma but also mercy, kindness, and community. Penetrating and generous, far-seeing and intimate, her prose is an essential guide for a troubled land.
A Note From the Publisher
LibraryReads nominations due by 4/20 and IndieNext nominations due by 4/4/17.
“Camille Dungy has crafted an elegant, meditative love letter to the life of the writer, the natural world, histories from which we cannot nor should not extricate ourselves, black womanhood, black motherhood, and the unabashed joy of raising up a black girl. Dungy maps the ways her world has changed its shape as she has learned to mother her daughter, while also negotiating the writing life she cannot abandon. The writing here is as intimate as it is expansive.” - ROXANE GAY, author of Difficult Women
“I’m so impressed by the calm, lucidity, and sturdiness of Camille Dungy’s writing, even as it explores the most agonizing and anxiety-producing aspects of our shared past and present. I say 'shared,' but these burdens are of course unevenly distributed; Dungy’s account stares down the effects of such with clear eyes, full heart, and the kind of dedication to fact, feeling, and history that we truly need now, as ever.” —MAGGIE NELSON, author of The Argonauts
“For Dungy, history is a shared root system that nourishes her vital imagination. GUIDEBOOK TO RELATIVE STRANGERS is a balm for the American soul.”—GREGORY PARDLO, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Digest