I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain
By Anita Sethi
(Bloomsbury, 29th April 2021)
“I knew in every bone in my body, in every fibre of my being that I had to speak up. I knew I could not stay silent or still. I knew I had to keep walking through the world”
A journey of reclamation through the natural landscapes of the North, brilliantly exploring identity, nature, place and belonging. Beautifully written and truly inspiring, I Belong Here heralds a powerful and refreshing new voice in nature writing.
Anita Sethi was on a journey through Northern England when she became the victim of a race-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 travelling freely and without fear.
The Pennines – known as ‘the backbone of Britain’ 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. 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. 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 Belong Here is a brilliant, brave and important book, which tells the story of two intertwining journeys: one made on foot and the other made in the heart; one across the rock and rivers of the Pennines, and another traversing the hard ground from hatred to forgiveness. Both challenging and beautiful to read, it is a book that calls out wrongness and is full of openness and hope. The cries of curlew and lapwing, the slow growth of lichen, the tending of flowers, the clarity of running water; these are formidably evoked against the forces of discrimination and prejudice. Anita’s is a vital and resonant voice in the writing of place and nature in Britain, and here she powerfully and movingly reclaims the landscape of the North as hers to love and belong in.”
– Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland
‘In gorgeous prose that rolls along like the uplands, Anita Sethi opens our eyes to the beauty of our countryside and the hurt and healing found therein. It is rare to find writing that evokes landscape so finely but also conveys our inner world with such power, emotion, vulnerability and truth.I Belong Here deserves its place alongside the Macfarlanes and Macdonalds as a classic of modern British nature writing‘
– Patrick Barkham, author of The Wild Isles
“A brilliant writer”
– NIKESH SHUKLA
On the Seasons nature writing anthology contribution:
“Beautiful, really moving”
– MELISSA HARRISON
On forthcoming piece in Women on Nature:
– KATHARINE NORBURY