Gullies of My People

An Excavation of Landscape and Family

Title Details

Pages: 216

Illustrations: 23 b&w images

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 11/01/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6544-2

List Price: $23.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of UGA Press Friends Fund

Gullies of My People

An Excavation of Landscape and Family

Weaving of personal history with explorations of the natural world

Skip to

  • Description
  • Reviews

While scouting sites for geology field trips, poet and naturalist John Lane encountered deep gullies created between the Civil War and the 1930s contributed to by his mother’s tenant farming family and their rural neighbors in Piedmont South Carolina. This brush with the poor farming practices of the past leads Lane into an exploration of his own family’s complicated history and of the larger environmental forces that have shaped the region where he chooses to live. With his sister as guide, Lane descends into the gully of his own childhood to uncover memories of a loving but alcoholic mother and a suicidal father.

Back and forth, the narrative progresses from depictions of the land—particularly the overgrown and neglected places that hold stories and mysteries of the region—to Lane’s ever-deepening search.He wonders how he, a college professor and husband settled into middle-class life, has emerged from the chaos of his family’s past. Along the way, we meet heroic Depression-era geologists, fascinating colleagues, and troubled ancestors. Lane’s extraordinary ability to weave personal history together with explorations of the natural world will remind readers of the works of Loren Eiseley and Terry Tempest Williams.

In his extraordinary book, Gullies of My People, John Lane—poet and naturalist—tells us: there is wonder in both discovering who you are and how you got there. This work is just that, an enlightening journey over and through the physical land an extended family traversed as well as the personal journey of one man with particular attention to the mother who raised him— his bedrock, despite the many hardships and losses along the way. The metaphorical connections are powerful and produce a compelling and resonant family portrait.

—Jill McCorkle, author of Hieroglyphics

Gullies of My People is a lyrical work of ‘geo-autobiography’ that simultaneously, or rather in a pattern of layered stratigraphy, explores the author’s home place in the Piedmont region of South Carolina and his family history. Back and forth, back and forth, the narrative progresses from depictions of the land, particularly the overgrown and neglected—but deeply storied—gullies of the region, to ever deepening depictions of key members of Lane's family.

—Scott Slovic, author of Ecoambiguity, Community, and Development: Toward a Politicized Ecocriticism

John Lane brilliantly uses the Piedmont South’s erosive past to cut through and make visible the accreted layers of his own family history. Gullies of My People is the kind of peopled nature writing this wounded region needs.”

—Paul S. Sutter, author of Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies: Providence Canyon and the Soils of the South

About the Author/Editor

JOHN LANE is professor emeritus of environmental studies at Wofford College. A 2014 inductee into the South Carolina Academy of Authors, his books include Circling Home, My Paddle to the Sea, and Coyote Settles the South (all Georgia). He is also coeditor of The Woods Stretched for Miles: New Nature Writing from the South (also Georgia), and he has published numerous volumes of poetry, essays, and novels. Coming into Animal Presence is his most recent work. He lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina.