How I Became a Tree Sumana Roy

Publication date:
26 Oct 2021
Yale University Press
248 pages: 216 x 140mm
Sales territories:
World excluding the Indian Subcontinent

First published in India to great acclaim, this exquisitely crafted meditation on trees is already on its way to becoming an international classic

Sumana Roy’s How I Became a Tree offers a new vision of what it means to be human in the natural world. Hailed by reviewers as “a love song to plants and trees” and “an ode to all that is unnoticed, ill, neglected, and yet resilient,” Roy’s stunning meditations on trees, forests, plant life, time, self, agency, and more emulate trees’ spacious, relaxed rhythms.
“I was tired of speed,” she writes, “I wanted to live to tree time.” She is drawn to trees’ wisdom, their nonviolent way of being, and their ability to cope with loneliness and pain. Roy movingly explores the lessons that writers, painters, photographers, scientists, and spiritual figures have gleaned through their engagement with trees—from Rabindranath Tagore and D. H. Lawrence to scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose and the Buddha. Blending literary history, theology, philosophy, botany, and more, this absorbing book will prompt readers to imagine a reenchanted world in which humans live more like trees.

Sumana Roy is associate professor of English and creative writing at Ashoka University in Haryana, India. She is the author of Missing: A Novel, Out of Syllabus: Poems, and My Mother’s Lover and Other Stories.

“Sumana Roy has written—grown—a radiant and wondrous book, which roots and branches in complex, provocative ways, helping us recognize trees for the ‘strange strangers’ they are, companion-citizens with which we think and remember, yes, but also alien beings that draw love, hate, indifference, and even lust from us humans.”—Robert Macfarlane, author of The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

"A poetic, probing meditation on how trees are, to paraphrase Lévi-Strauss, 'good to think with.' Sumana Roy gives us a fresh and surprising look at a topic as old as the Epic of Gilgamesh, or to put it another way, almost as old as the oldest living trees."—Robert Moor, best-selling author of On Trails: An Exploration

“This is one of the most original, delightful, inspiring books I have read in a long time. It will enchant and move the reader with its unique imaginative mindset, its humorous touches, and its defiance of convention.”—Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University

“A genuinely exceptional work that is as poetic as it is scholarly—quirky, enlightening and enriching.”—Chandak Sengoopta, Birbeck College, University of London