Caroline Sanderson talks with Anita Sethi about her new book of nature writing and its link to an awful hate crime
During a trip through Northern England Anita Sethi 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 attack, 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.
In her new book, I Belong Here: a Journey Along the Backbone of Britain, the first of her nature writing trilogy, Anita transforms her personal experience into one of universal resonance, offering a call to action, to keep walking onwards, forging a path through and beyond pain. Every footstep taken is an act of persistence. Every word written is an act of resistance. 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.
Join her in conversation with Caroline Sanderson on her new book, identity, nature, place and belonging.
Anita Sethi was born in Manchester, UK and is the author of I Belong Here: a Journey Along the Backbone of Britain. I Belong Here is the first in her nature writing trilogy, to be followed by Nocturne (2022) and Forces (2024). Anita’s work is also including in the forthcoming anthologies, Women on Nature edited by Katharine Norbury and The Wild Isles edited by Patrick Barkham. She has been published in the Seasons nature writing anthology and Common People, among others. She has written for national and international newspapers and magazines including the Guardian and Observer, Sunday Times, BBC Wildlife, and Vogue, and in broadcasting has appeared as a guest critic and commentator, panellist and co-presenter on several channels including BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 Live, the World Service, and ABC Australia. She has been a judge of the British Book Awards, Society of Authors Awards, and Costa Book Awards among others. Her career highlights include going birdwatching with Margaret Atwood in the UK's oldest nature reserve.
Caroline Sanderson is a writer and books journalist who regularly interviews writers on page, stage and screen. She is Associate Editor of The Bookseller, and the editor of ALCS News, the monthly newsletter of the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society, for whom she also hosts a podcast, Authors’ Matters. Caroline is Artistic Director of Stroud Book Festival, and an Associate Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. She is also the author of five non-fiction books of her own.
Praise for I Belong Here
“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. Anita's is a vital and resonant voice” - Robert Macfarlane
“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
“A brilliantly accomplished mix of powerful memoir and revelatory nature writing, Sethi's account of finding solace in the Northern countryside following a traumatic racial attack is a defiant act of reclamation and an astonishing piece of testimony.” - Best Books to Look Forward to in 2021, Waterstones
“A magnificent and redemptive achievement. I find it so moving that such a beautifully written, hate-defying book has been born from such a horrific experience. The book beautifully expresses Sethi's love of the natural world, and her joy at putting one foot in front of the other. “I Belong Here is a shining example of how books, at their best, can be an act of resistance and a communal force for good.” - Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller Book of the Month/Editor's Choice review
Photo of Anita Sethi walking through Pennines by George Torode
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