Love, Out of Place
Eight essays exploring how identity is shaped by place and its people
“Terroir” refers to the environment in which a wine is produced—climate, the earth and its minerals, water, weather, and wind—and also to human intervention, for example, how and when a row of grapevines is pruned.
In her essay collection Terroir, Natasha Sajé applies this concept to people and their relationships, exploring in particular how the immigrant experience has shaped her identity. As she revisits people and literature across her life, she plumbs the language through the lens of place, which becomes a powerful, grounding motif: her experiences as the child of Eastern European refugees in suburban New Jersey, taken under the wing a widowed neighbor; her college summers spent abroad waitressing in Switzerland; her interracial marriage to Tyrone and the accompanying intolerance they experienced in Baltimore; and finally her years in Salt Lake City facing an unsanctioned love with her wife.
Combining travel and food writing, incisive social commentary, and poetic lyricism, Sajé’s essays explore issues central to our time, including nationality, race, class, sexual orientation, and religion. Hers are not tales of melancholy or victimization but rather stories of human understanding. Taken as a whole, the essays posit terroir as critical to the creation of human identity—that is, as Sajé’s environment changes, so does she. And even in the most hostile and improbable places, love still blossoms.
“Terroir is an important collection of personal essays on the theme of otherness, derived from a lifetime of uncommon experience, that offers new ways of thinking about what it means to be human. ‘Awareness of the increasingly pressing question of how to spend my time on earth makes every choice significant,’ Natasha Sajé writes. And her reflections on those choices are by turns revelatory, challenging, and deeply moving. Such wisdom she possesses!”
— Christopher Merrill, author of Self-Portrait with Dogwood
“Natasha Sajé’s essays examine coming of age in America as a profoundly intersectional experience with her honest exploration of what it means to be an insider, an outsider, and a passionately alert artist. Her essays are conjured from an inexplicable combination of elements—a terroir—that’s at once sensual and intellectual, self-scouring and celebratory.”
— Lia Purpura, author of All the Fierce Tethers
“A complex and full-hearted book. As Sajé grapples with what it means to be a human living in community with other humans, she must also consider complicating questions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, professional and familial loyalties, nationality, and economic class. This is not a book to suggest we are all human and therefore all the same, capable of loving and being loved. Rather, in these pages Sajé struggles with what makes us all different, and what it means when she stands by someone in the face of all that might set her and all others apart.”
— Camille T. Dungy, author of Guidebook to Relative Strangers