Places for the Spirit: Traditional African American Gardens San Antonio, Tex.: Trinity University Press, 2010
Cloth, 139 pp., $29.95
The fascinating photographs in this work illustrate decidedly different gardens, filled with meaning, memories, and spirit. Sills captured a new world in the Deep South that was heavily influenced by African traditions, with striking colors and designs. All of the photographs in this work were taken with the consent of the gardens' owners, predominantly older African Americans. As Lowry Pei, Sills’ huband and driver, points out in his introduction, these photographs record traditions that may persist into the future. Pei also explains many of the decorative objects in the gardens, such as bottles on trees to capture evil spirits. The photographs that capture the owners of these gardens reveal their intense pride in their efforts. Some of these gardens lack plants but include found, whimsical objects. Hilton Als notes in his foreword that “looking at these black and white images sometimes feels like dropping paper flowers in a glass of water and watching them expand.” This book certainly does that, providing a new view of the spirit found in these special places.
— Joan Richards, volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden
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