“Black & Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places” (Adventure Publications, Inc., Cambridge, Minn.) is not your everyday outdoor fare. Nicely photographed and written by Dudley Edmondson, this 144-page book highlights minorities who are either involved with nature or have a career in the out-of-doors. Edmondson (who is black) seeks to resolve two conundrums, “Why am I not seeing many people of color in the national parks and wildlife refuges?” and, “Shouldn’t all Americans be involved in decisions about wild spaces?”
Edmondson obtains his answers by interviewing 19 people of color whom he met in the field. The 11 men and eight women profiled range from graduate students, through a falconer and a big game hunter, to conservation agency bureaucrats. Edmondson asks his subjects how they became involved in the outdoors, why they value their outdoor experiences and why they think blacks are nearly absent from the wild lands they visit.
Their answers to the first two questions are surprisingly similar to those in surveys of the more general population. Regardless of ethnicity, some people are fascinated with nature and like the freedom and solitude offered by the out-of-doors. Most of the respondents became outdoor enthusiasts because a mother, father or grandparent encouraged their interest in the natural world.
The interviews are never summarized, but one concludes that the absence of blacks in the backcountry, which Edmondson notes, is due mainly to a lack of early opportunities (a phenomenon also experienced by urban whites). How can inner-city youths build on an outdoor experience that never occurs?
Had the author conducted his interviews on Arizona’s public lands, instead of in Minnesota, he would have found Hispanics and blacks better-represented. I think most of southern Arizona’s deer and javelina hunters are of Hispanic origin. But no one knows, as no survey has ever been conducted of the ethnic makeup of Arizona’s outdoor users.
Well-written and easy to read, this book comes with a 44-page supplement designed for younger readers. Either would make a nice gift, but don’t pass this book along without promising the recipient a trip afield. As Edmondson’s profiles make clear, no book can substitute for an outdoor mentor.
–David E. Brown
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