Article by Emma Myers~ Copy Editor

Photo of Lanham’s memoir retrieved from

“The Home Place” by J. Drew Lanham is a memoir about Lanham’s experience as an African American in the “birding” community (more commonly known as “bird-watching”). 

He talks about the racism he faces as a Black Naturalist, and how he has worked to help alter the world of science to become a more inclusive space. He also talks about his views on religion, lineage and more, as he recollects familial stories from his childhood. 

This book expresses important social commentary, providing insight into what it is like to live in a world where your passions are challenged by the color of your skin. It is a good example of why it is important to work together to ensure equitable footing for individuals in every field. 

It also serves as an example of how hard work and courage allow you to achieve your dreams and serve as an inspiration for all. 

In the book, Lanham writes, “Home, after all, is more than a place on a map. It’s a place in the heart (212).”

There couldn’t be a more clear demonstration of the “Home Place of the heart” than in Lanham’s book, which was full of it. 

On Monday, Nov. 13, Lanham held a Thornton Reading in the memorial ballroom to further discuss the intricacies of his life and work. 

He discussed his love of writing, especially writing about birds, and the inescapable struggles he has to face day-to-day as a Black individual, especially within the scientific community.

Those in attendance were especially inspired by his moving sentiments. 

Kendra Scaggs, freshman, said, “Personally, I loved it when he was answering the question about what he would put on a slide showing what connected him to nature the most because he put every bit of sensory information into it: he gave sights, smells, sounds and people that made him feel connected to nature. He just spoke so poetically and it made it all really easy to connect to and feel like we were a part of it.” 

Destini Baccus, junior, had the opportunity to personally meet Lanham prior to the event. 

Baccus said, “I would say Lanham himself, I met him earlier yesterday before the event, and he seemed so kind. I went to the event mostly to confirm this and I was correct. His general attitude and demeanor reminded me of my dad. Chipper, stern, yet honest.”

Learn more about the history of the Thornton readings here, and visit here to learn more about Lanham’s work. 


Lanham, J. D. (Joseph D. (2016). The home place : memoirs of a colored man’s love affair with nature (First edition.). Milkweed Editions.

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