Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History (Paperback)
Winter 2018 Reading Group Indie Next List
“Camille T. Dungy’s Guidebook to Relative Strangers is a powerful beauty of a book. While it is a study of race, history, trauma, and memory told through travelogue, it is also a memoir of motherhood and a love letter to her daughter.”
— Anton Bogomazov, Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Colorado Book Award
As a working mother and poet-lecturer, Camille Dungy’s livelihood depended on travel. She crisscrossed America and beyond with her daughter in tow, history shadowing their steps, always intensely aware of how they were perceived, not just as mother and child but as black women. From the San Francisco of settlers’ dreams to the slave-trading ports of Ghana, from snow-white Maine to a festive yet threatening bonfire in the Virginia pinewoods, Dungy finds fear and trauma but also mercy, kindness, and community. Penetrating and generous, this is an essential guide for a troubled land.
About the Author
Camille T. Dungy is an award-winning poet and editor and professor of creative writing at Colorado State University. She lives with her husband and child in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Part memoir, part travelogue, part parental guide, this book is a stunningly beautiful love letter from a mother to her daughter to help her daughter embrace the world she lives in, to introduce her to her ancestors, and prepare her for the future.
— Edwidge Danticat, author of The Art of Death
Calm, lucid, and sturdy, Dungy’s account stares down the effects and unevenly distributed burdens of our shared past and present 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
Dungy's prose is rich, fertile, astoundingly beautiful, and also singular and exacting. What better a voice to explore the rapture of motherhood, the fraught vulnerability of living in a black body, and the beautiful intimacy that can arise between near strangers? Guidebook to Relative Strangers is world-enlarging and indispensable.
— Tracy K. Smith, US poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Life on Mars
As intimate as it is expansive.
— Roxane Gay, author of Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
Evokes the blend of horror, mortality, and terrible tenderness [Dungy] has previously captured in her poetry.
If you’ve been searching for an Eat, Pray, Love-esque memoir that isn’t exploitative, Guidebook to Relative Strangers is definitely worth your time.
[Dungy] writes not as an authority, but as a fellow traveler, reminding us that motherhood will crack open your heart, clutter your brain, confound your steps and explode your consciousness.
In stirring and insightful prose, the wonder of our shared journey is spelled out on these pages. The music from Camille Dungy’s pen is as intimate as the blues and as epic as a symphony.
— Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage
Some essay collections challenge your intellect, others break open your heart, a few grant a new way of seeing, and occasionally one sings a song you feel in your bones. It’s rare that a collection hits all four notes, yet Camille T. Dungy’s first collection of essays…does so with impressive range, ambition, and timeliness.
— Cate Hodorowicz
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
Dungy’s voice engages as a conversation with a dear friend might, with affection for the possibilities revealed in human relationships. These gorgeous essays are essential and deeply compelling.
— Wendy S. Walters, author of Multiply / Divide