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A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise: 20 Young Writers on Finding a Place in the Natural World

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Warning: This is not your parents’ nature writing! A distinctly contemporary take on the genre, A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise features original essays by twenty gifted writers, all thirty and under, whose strong and diverse voices redefine nature writing for the twenty-first century. Editor Bonnie Tsui’s cast of accomplished contributors wrestle with integrating natu Warning: This is not your parents’ nature writing! A distinctly contemporary take on the genre, A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise features original essays by twenty gifted writers, all thirty and under, whose strong and diverse voices redefine nature writing for the twenty-first century. Editor Bonnie Tsui’s cast of accomplished contributors wrestle with integrating nature into their lives while putting down roots—often in urban environments. Included here are the New Yorker’s Andrea Walker on learning to hunt with her father; noted fishing author and painter James Prosek on the mythology and mystery of eels; writer Hugh Ryan on being taught how to pitch a tent by a six-foot drag queen at a Radical Faeries camp in Tennessee; poet Cecily Parks on reconciling her adventuress self with her fear of lightning; and African-American journalist Alex Kellogg on rethinking his ideas about race and identity on a visit to Kenya and Eritrea. Brimming with insight and humor, A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise rewards us with new perspectives on personal identity in relation to nature, and on the impact of landscape and place on our lives.


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Warning: This is not your parents’ nature writing! A distinctly contemporary take on the genre, A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise features original essays by twenty gifted writers, all thirty and under, whose strong and diverse voices redefine nature writing for the twenty-first century. Editor Bonnie Tsui’s cast of accomplished contributors wrestle with integrating natu Warning: This is not your parents’ nature writing! A distinctly contemporary take on the genre, A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise features original essays by twenty gifted writers, all thirty and under, whose strong and diverse voices redefine nature writing for the twenty-first century. Editor Bonnie Tsui’s cast of accomplished contributors wrestle with integrating nature into their lives while putting down roots—often in urban environments. Included here are the New Yorker’s Andrea Walker on learning to hunt with her father; noted fishing author and painter James Prosek on the mythology and mystery of eels; writer Hugh Ryan on being taught how to pitch a tent by a six-foot drag queen at a Radical Faeries camp in Tennessee; poet Cecily Parks on reconciling her adventuress self with her fear of lightning; and African-American journalist Alex Kellogg on rethinking his ideas about race and identity on a visit to Kenya and Eritrea. Brimming with insight and humor, A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise rewards us with new perspectives on personal identity in relation to nature, and on the impact of landscape and place on our lives.

30 review for A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise: 20 Young Writers on Finding a Place in the Natural World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rashaan

    Every year, if one's lucky enough to call themselves a Composition instructor she is tasked with the Herculean challenge of hooking classrooms full of incoming freshman into the written word. We feel as if we have one shot and one shot only to bait and reel these squirrely minds into the power of language. The bait used this fall was the Sierra Club's latest collection A Leaky Tent is a Piece of Paradise: 20 Young Writers on Finding a Place in the Natural World, edited by Bonnie Tsui. From explo Every year, if one's lucky enough to call themselves a Composition instructor she is tasked with the Herculean challenge of hooking classrooms full of incoming freshman into the written word. We feel as if we have one shot and one shot only to bait and reel these squirrely minds into the power of language. The bait used this fall was the Sierra Club's latest collection A Leaky Tent is a Piece of Paradise: 20 Young Writers on Finding a Place in the Natural World, edited by Bonnie Tsui. From exploring the Maori folklore of New Zealand eels in James' Prosek piece, "Eelian Thinking," to tracking the seasonal cycle at a Brooklyn Farmer's Market in a beautifully lyrical work by Liesl Schwabe's "The End of Strawberries, The Beginning of Peaches" each appealed to my students and earned rave reviews. There was something for everyone. Even the students who didn't consider themselves nature lovers were able to relate to at least one of the essays. As much as the essays pay tribute to the environmental movement, some of the thornier issues may still prick readers, particularly the fact that many of these writers come from privileged Euro American backgrounds, people, who, like most green activists and adventure-explorers can afford to take a three months trek in the Arctic or a cross-country road trip, shrugging off family obligations without a care for economic worries. Its a class and cultural thing. The two writers, Lilith Wood's "God in the Cannery" and the earlier mentioned Schwabe, connect with nature through working class labor and reveal a completely different insight from the ground level looking up. Their relationship to the wild is unwieldy and rattles the nerves in the most profound and necessary of ways. Students struggled with these works because their meaning wasn't so obvious. That's a good thing! Though sometimes the humor in many of these essays can be distracting, overall each piece reveals sincere, wise, and exquisite voices. Crammed with humor and spiked with profound insight, the best non-fiction weaves priceless gems of facts, curious information, anecdotal bits of history and lore as the personal narrative pulls readers forward. A Leaky Tent is an excellent demonstration of clear, engaging, and vivid writing. Definitely a keeper. I'll be using this collection again for composition classes to come.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Greg Goodrum

    As with most collections, different selections will strike readers differently, and this is no exception. I really enjoyed Tim Neville's ode to moving into a tent while in a fit of high school angst, Nate Johnson's paddling thoughts, and James Prosek's refreshingly readable natural history short on the world of eels. Most other authors I found enjoyable, but with less hook than the above mentioned authors. The only story that I did not enjoy was Nicole Davis' road trip tale that really just stru As with most collections, different selections will strike readers differently, and this is no exception. I really enjoyed Tim Neville's ode to moving into a tent while in a fit of high school angst, Nate Johnson's paddling thoughts, and James Prosek's refreshingly readable natural history short on the world of eels. Most other authors I found enjoyable, but with less hook than the above mentioned authors. The only story that I did not enjoy was Nicole Davis' road trip tale that really just struck me as the antithesis of a good road trip, laced with slightly veiled entitlement and very of human or geographic interest to grip the reader. The element that stood out most to me in this collection was it thankfully delivering on the line that sold, it is in fact a very different take on nature writing. Not only did all of the authors approach their work in a journalistic form, very refreshing from the monotonous narrative and scientific forms that define most modern nature writing, but the writers across the board stepped away from the focus on nature and humanity's role in it on a large scale. Instead, they dive into nature's impact on people at a very personal level, making each story relatable, even if less than stirring. My only other complaint was that there is a strong NYC bias among the authors. While not apparent initially, NYC's minor role in many stories leads to a limiting of the scope of urban elements here to primarily two locations (San Francisco also appears somewhat frequently). These are small issues though, and do little to affect what is a successful, if not always gripping account of modern suburban- and urbanite journalists reflecting on what connects them to the natural world.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I liked how it was about people relating to nature even in places the most distanced from it, but the writing was somewhat a deal breaker for me. High quality teen essays are still teen essays and as a result a lot of them had that college-admission-essay feel to it that seemed strained. Still an excellent collection though, even though I didn't appreciate it myself, and definitely worth checking out if you are interested in this sort of nature writing at all. I liked how it was about people relating to nature even in places the most distanced from it, but the writing was somewhat a deal breaker for me. High quality teen essays are still teen essays and as a result a lot of them had that college-admission-essay feel to it that seemed strained. Still an excellent collection though, even though I didn't appreciate it myself, and definitely worth checking out if you are interested in this sort of nature writing at all.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    I didn't finish it, but I probably won't read all of the essays in here. Particularly liked the ones on the boy who lived outside his parents' house in a tent, the self-described sissy who goes camping (at the Radical Faerie sanctuary in Tennessee) for the first time, and the man who swam from Alcatraz to SF. I skipped several of the essays, though -- just couldn't get into them. I didn't finish it, but I probably won't read all of the essays in here. Particularly liked the ones on the boy who lived outside his parents' house in a tent, the self-described sissy who goes camping (at the Radical Faerie sanctuary in Tennessee) for the first time, and the man who swam from Alcatraz to SF. I skipped several of the essays, though -- just couldn't get into them.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jackson Lathe

    this only gets two stars because there are about two stories in this that are worthwhile reading. The rest reads like badly coached high school english essays.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gavin Hribar

    cool essays on outdoorsy topics as well as general life reflections. very well written and by 20 somethings so it's easy to connect with them. cool essays on outdoorsy topics as well as general life reflections. very well written and by 20 somethings so it's easy to connect with them.

  7. 5 out of 5

    LINDA

    This book is a compilation of short stories by 20 different young writers. I will report more when I have finished.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book is lighthearted, and perfect for how I'm feeling about nature and the world right now. There's so much beauty and adventure out there that we just need to get out and see, do, touch, feel! This book is lighthearted, and perfect for how I'm feeling about nature and the world right now. There's so much beauty and adventure out there that we just need to get out and see, do, touch, feel!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    featuring an essay by Lilith Wood

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Tamraz

    a great anthology of travel writing all by people under the age of 30-- no flashy hotels, tons of cash, or safety nets involved.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Being a total outdoors geek, this was a great book. There were some stories I liked better than others. For the most part though, they all had merit. A must read for fellow outdoor geeks.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    a triumph!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Feathers

    Nice collection of essays.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I really enjoyed this book - especially the essay about the canoe trip to the Arctic.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Keleigh

    The SN&R Arts Editor, Jonathan Kiefer, has a piece in here...And he missed the Level 1 workshop to do a public reading from it. :)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brent

  17. 5 out of 5

    J. Thompson

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brycesnyder

  19. 5 out of 5

    Irmi Willcockson

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Schmuckal

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christine

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

  23. 5 out of 5

    James

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marie

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emmett

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  28. 4 out of 5

    RebeccaV

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tara Christie

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