I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain (Hardcover)
One woman's journey of reclamation through natural landscapes as she contemplates identity and womanhood, nature, place and belonging.
Anita Sethi was on a journey through Northern England in Summer 2019 when she became the victim of a racially motivated 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 from traveling freely and without fear.
Between the route from Liverpool to Newcastle lays the Pennines, known as "the backbone of Britain." That "backbone" 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.
We're living in an era of increased hostility in which more people of color around the world are being told to "go back"; strong statements of belonging are needed more than ever. Anita's journey gives her the perspective to reflect upon the important issues encompassed in her experience of abuse including speaking out, gaslighting, trauma, kindness, and notions of strength. 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, forging a path through and beyond pain. 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.
About the Author
Anita Sethi was born in Manchester, UK where her love of nature first flourished in childhood, in wild urban spaces. I Belong Here is the first in her nature writing trilogy. She has contributed to anthologies including Seasons, Common People, and Women on Nature, has written for the Guardian, Observer, i, Sunday Times, Telegraph, Vogue, BBC Wildlife, New Statesman and Times Literary Supplement, and appeared on various BBC Radio programmes. She has been shortlisted for Northern Writer of the Year at the Northern Soul Awards and Journalist of the Year at the Asian Media Awards, and has judged the British Book Awards and Society of Author Awards. She has lived around the world including being an International Writer in Residence in Melbourne. Her career highlights include going birdwatching with Margaret Atwood in the UK's oldest nature reserve.
“For anyone who has ever felt out of place, I Belong Here is a moving and comforting read. For everyone else, it is an education. Punchier and more political than most nature writing, this book is a thing of beauty.” —Sunday Times
“A memoir of rare power” —Guardian
“Nature's beauty and wilderness provide a welcome escape from Sethi's city life and kickstart a healing process as she becomes enveloped in the great outdoors, taking us on an emotional journey at the same time. It's an amazing odyssey: inspiring, powerful, encouraging and incredibly brave.
“Passionate and reflective” —New Statesman
“Restored and enlivened by the wonders of nature, Anita finds the courage to embrace her vulnerabilities and strengths and to claim her place in the world. Brave and life-affirming book” —Sunday Express
“Manchester-born Sethi achieves a powerful blend of memoir, travelogue and natural history as she reflects on nature, place and belonging; and at its beating heart, her book is a stirring love letter to this troubled country of ours. I find it so moving that such a beautifully written, hate-defying book has been born from such a horrific experience. 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.” —The Bookseller Book of the Month/Editor's Choice review
“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.” —Waterstones
“A powerful and moving memoir” —BBC Countryfile Magazine
“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. Anita's is a vital and resonant voice and here she powerfully and movingly reclaims the landscape of the North as hers to love and belong in.” —Robert Macfarlane
“Sethi unpacks the traumatic legacy of racism, the scars her experiences have left, and the survival strategies she has learned. Fluidly balancing searing examinations of racial justice with lush descriptions of natural wonders like the waterfall gurgling in Hull Pot chasm, Sethi finds solace in her explorations of nature.” —Booklist