Jessica J. Lee is joined in conversation by Bathsheba Demuth to celebrate the publication of her book, Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family's Past Among Taiwan's Mountains and Coasts (Catapult).
“This is a beautiful book about the distance between people and between places, and the means of their bridging.” —Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland
“Two Trees Make a Forest is glorious and extraordinary—in its language, in its setting, in its story. Jessica J. Lee has a brilliant eye for nature, an ear for languages, and a sensitivity to the poetry of the human heart. In these pages, she performs a subtle miracle: she retrieves lost strands of family, landscape, and history and weaves them together to create a surprising and soulful whole.” —Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus
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About Two Trees Make a Forest
A chance discovery of letters written by her immigrant grandfather leads Jessica J. Lee to her ancestral homeland, Taiwan. There, she seeks his story while growing closer to the land he knew.
Lee hikes mountains home to Formosan flamecrests, birds found nowhere else on earth, and swims in a lake of drowned cedars. She bikes flatlands where spoonbills alight by fish farms, and learns about a tree whose fruit can float in the ocean for years, awaiting landfall. Throughout, Lee unearths surprising parallels between the natural and human stories that have shaped her family and their beloved island. Joyously attentive to the natural world, Lee also turns a critical gaze upon colonialist explorers who mapped the land and named plants, relying on and often effacing the labor and knowledge of local communities.
Two Trees Make a Forest is a genre-shattering book encompassing history, travel, nature, and memoir, an extraordinary narrative showing how geographical forces are interlaced with our family stories.
About the authors
Jessica J. Lee is a British-Canadian-Taiwanese author and environmental historian, and winner of the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Author Award. She received a doctorate in environmental history and aesthetics in 2016, and her first book, Turning: A Year in the Water, was published in 2017. Jessica is the founding editor of The Willowherb Review. She lives in Berlin.
Bathsheba Demuth is an Assistant Professor of History and Environment and Society at Brown University. Her first book, the prize-winning Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait (W.W. Norton), was named a best book of 2019 by Nature, NPR, Barnes and Noble, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal, and is out in paperback in August 2020. An environmental historian, Demuth specializes in the lands and seas of the Russian and North American Arctic. Her interest in northern environments and cultures began when she was 18 and moved to the village of Old Crow in the Yukon. For over two years, she mushed huskies, hunted caribou, fished for salmon, and otherwise learned to survive in the taiga and tundra. A 2020 Andrew Carnegie Fellow, Demuth is starting work on her second book, a biography of the Yukon River watershed from colonization to climate change. In the archive or on a dog sled, she is interested in how the histories of people, ideas, places, and other-than-human species intersect. Her writing on these subjects has appeared in publications from The American Historical Review to The New Yorker.