I Belong Here

Dear Reader,

So excited to share such an inspiring and powerful new publication today. Part memoir, part nature writing, I Belong Here is both passionate and perceptive; a rallying cry for equality and a heartfelt love letter to nature.

“To empathise is to imagine yourself into and beneath the skin of another, into their mind and heart, and what it would be like walking in their shoes. We need greater empathy for both human beings and the natural world. Imagine yourself into and beneath the skin of the earth, to its core, to its backbone and bedrock. Imagine yourself into a tree and a river and a gryke and a flower. How can you possibly now cause these beings hurt?”

Anita Sethi, I Belong Here
I Belong Here by Anita Sethi

Biographies & Memoirs | Outdoors & Nature

Anita Sethi was on a journey through Northern England in Summer 2019 when she became the victim of a racially motivated hate crime. The crime was a vicious attack on her right to exist in a place on account of her race. After the event Anita experienced panic attacks and anxiety. A crushing sense of claustrophobia made her long for wide open spaces, to breathe deeply in the great outdoors. She was intent on not letting her experience stop her from traveling freely and without fear.

Between the route from Liverpool to Newcastle lays the Pennines, known as “the backbone of Britain.” That “backbone” runs through the north and also strongly connects north with south, east with west–it’s a place of borderlands and limestone, of rivers and “scars,” of fells and forces. The Pennines called to Anita with a magnetic force; although a racist had told her to leave, she felt drawn to further explore the area she regards as her home, to immerse herself deeply in place. Anita’s journey through the natural landscapes of the North is one of reclamation, a way of saying that this is her land too and she belongs in the UK as a brown woman, as much as a white man does.

We’re living in an era of increased hostility in which more people of color around the world are being told to “go back”; strong statements of belonging are needed more than ever. Anita’s journey gives her the perspective to reflect upon the important issues encompassed in her experience of abuse including speaking out, gaslighting, trauma, kindness, and notions of strength. Her journey transforms what began as an ugly experience of hate into one offering hope and finding beauty after brutality.

Anita transforms her personal experience into one of universal resonance, offering a call to action, to keep walking onwards, forging a path through and beyond pain. Every footstep taken is an act of persistence. Every word written against the rising tide of hate speech, such as this book, is an act of resistance.

***

I thoroughly enjoyed sharing in Anita’s inspiring journey of discovery – walking alongside her across the landscapes of past and present, urban and wild. Her rendering of the Northern landscape and its people, flora and fauna, in words, was mesmerising. Facts and statistics are juxtaposed with lyrical and symbolic prose to question life itself; tackling issues of racism, misogyny, mental health, PTSD, climate change, and more, in an open and inclusive way.

Above all, I Belong Here is a reminder of the power and strength that is nurtured through putting one foot in front of the other.

“There is great freedom in accepting our scars as part of the landscape of our lives. Those scars might ultimately turn into something beautiful… If you look into the wound and turn it into words, there is wonder to be found.”

Anita Sethi, I Belong Here

I especially enjoyed the opportunity to revisit some truly special places during this last Lockdown through Anita’s words.

I Belong Here is published today by Bloomsbury – thank you to them, the author and Net Galley for giving me an advanced reading copy in exchange for my honest review.

Meg xx

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