In this brilliantly crafted essay collection, Tiffany Eberle Kriner weaves together literary criticism, nature writing, and memoir to explore what grows when we plant texts in the landscapes of our lives.
The first time Tiffany Eberle Kriner walked the parcel of land that would become Root and Sky Farm its primary crop seemed to be chaos. Industrial agriculture practices had depleted the fields, leaving them littered with the detritus of consumerism and rural poverty—plastic deck chairs, bags of diapers, endless empty cans of Monster Energy Drink. In this landscape, she meets Virgil and Charles W. Chesnutt, where her close readings of their works intersect with her efforts to create “a just and sustainable community farm.”
From her sixty acres in northern Illinois, Kriner reads James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, T. S. Eliot, William Langland, and others. She weaves reflections into the warp and woof of her life: coaxing growth from neglected land, embracing the frustrations and joys of family life, reckoning with racism in a small town. Along the way she cultivates an awareness of interdependence and mercy as they appear in the particulars of her rooted life.
Connecting culture, ecology, faith, and literature, In Thought, Word, and Seed invites readers to cultivate fruitful conversations between literature and the environments in which they live.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Thomas Gardner
“Few writers can pull off the range, insight, and depth found in this book. Tiffany Kriner’s voice and musings are vulnerable and perceptive, erudite yet conversational. With humane reflections that reckon with James Baldwin’s haunting voice and the paradoxes and travails of academia, family, and farming, this book is genuinely remarkable and gloriously undefinable. Consider it a seed that will bear life-giving fruit in all those who, with patience, attend to its pages.”
—Claude Atcho, pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Charlottesville, VA, and author of Reading Black Books
“A farm, writes Tiffany Kriner, is a ‘field full of powers and forces,’ and so are her paragraphs. In this beautifully written book, she turns the clichés of an evangelical childhood into a robust adult faith, the fragments of American history into a story of repentance and renewal, and a beat-up bit of land into a life-giving farm. She looks at so many things—at owls; at the writings of Chesnutt, Whitman, and Baldwin; at armed, possibly dangerous neighbors—with a generous, transforming attention.”
—Phil Christman, author of Midwest Futures
“Kriner is fearless in her exploration of the difficulty of place and land in a peripatetic and racially scarred America. Here are shades of Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard, and Julian of Norwich, but In Thought, Word, and Seed has, first, a voice all its own. Luminous. Audacious. Holy.”
—Beth Felker Jones, professor of theology, Northern Seminary
“In Thought, Word, and Seed blends honest reflection on some of today’s hardest issues with scenes of earth and sky. It’s thoughtfully considered and beautifully written.”
—Nurya Love Parish, executive director of Plainsong Farm in Rockford, MI, and author of Resurrection Matters: Church Renewal for Creation’s Sake
“I love the smorgasbord of genres powering this collection—the letter, the litany, reports from the field—all in service of questions vital to the moment: how to care for those with whom we share the earth; how to confront one’s racial innocence; and how to repair the ecosystems, both public and internal, that have been ‘laid waste.’ Tiffany Kriner trusts soul-sustaining and soul-wrenching farm work, community reckoning, and relationship building—the precious and challenging tasks that make up her days—to create occasions for the authentic encounters she seeks. And, because her writing is wise and beautiful, in seeking she quickly becomes a trusted guide. How to approach the overgrown, the neglected, the seemingly hopeless forces out there? Kriner’s method of response—‘I sharpen my loppers and pray for everything’—is perfect for our fraught and tender era.”
—Lia Purpura, author of All the Fierce Tethers
“In this lovely mash-up of literary criticism, theology, prayer, and memoir, Tiffany Eberle Kriner invites us into the joyful, frustrating, sweat-inducing, painfully exasperating, and satisfying work of redemption with the land. This is a deeply grounded, wisely attentive, and beautifully allusive book. A wonderful read that will invite you to come back for a second (or third) visit.”
—Brian Walsh, farmer at Russet House Farm in Ontario and coauthor of Beyond Homelessness