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The Hopes of Snakes
And Other Tales from the Urban Landscape
(Beacon Press, 2005)From the Executive Editor of Beacon Press
a letter that appeared in the galley of HOPES OF SNAKES

Dear Reader:
It gives me great pleasure to introduce
The Hopes of Snakes by Lisa Couturier.
Couturier is one of the very few writers who actively explores nature in the urban and suburban landscape. In particular, she writes about those forgotten, overlooked animals that survive amidst concrete, glass, and sprawl, among them snakes, geese, vultures, crows, and coyotes. She does so with deep humanity, eloquence, and power.

The Hopes of Snakes is a wonderful collection of essays. And what makes this book especially appealing are Couturier’s feeling and love for animals. Whether writing about baby herons living in New York City’s polluted wetlands, peregrine falcons nesting at the tops of skyscrapers, a black snake slithering into an Oktoberfest celebration, or crows roosting at a Maryland shopping mall, Couturier gives her readers a riveting glimpse of animals who adapt nobly to urban life. And along with her animal subjects, she also writes about a remarkable cast of humans who care for the animals in their midst.

The Hopes of Snakes is a terrific debut. Read it and see the natural world around you with new eyes.

Advance Praise for THE HOPES OF SNAKES (excerpts) . . .
(go to full reviews)
"Well traveled and well versed in science, Couturier . . . enters the terrain staked out by Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Terry Tempest Williams in Refuge. She makes a convincing case that a suburban woman with a toddler can have as viable a relationship with the wild as an intrepid backpacker; she does not so much domesticate the wilderness as reveal the wildness within the domestic." -- Publishers Weekly

"Couturier lyrically renders . . . life in each finely tuned essay.” -- Kirkus Reviews

"Couturier is an artist at discovering little bits of Nature in the city." --

"Lisa Couturier's essays shine with her candor, her perception, and her affection for the creatures of our world, especially with their difficult encounters on our endless roads and in our inhospitable towns and cities. Whether the subject is a snake or a falcon or a crow named Edgar, these essays will both enlighten and give much reading pleasure."
Mary Oliver

The Hopes of Snakes is a book full of rapture, mystery and surprise. . . . Let this lyrical, extraordinary book lure you into the urban thickets and vales of foxes, vultures, coyotes, serpents and geese--and inspire you to recapture the wild heart that keeps us truly alive.”
Sy Montgomery, author of Search for the Golden Moon Bear and Walking with the Great Apes

"Lisa Couturier has crafted a collection of essays that is, quite simply, stunning. . . .This book is a keeper, a teacher."
Susan Chernak McElroy, author of bestseller Animals as Teachers and Healers

"Lisa Couturier’s work at all times is distinguished by its grace, eloquence, and authority. . . In her mastery of the essay as an expressive form, and in the power and sincerity of her thinking, Lisa Couturier has established herself as the literary equal of such contemporary luminaries as Linda Hogan, Diane Ackerman and Barbara Kingsolver."
John A. Murray, writer, and editor of American Nature Writing collections

The Hopes of Snakes is a timely book, skillfully and finely crafted, full of wonder, full of creature hope and human hope.”
Pattiann Rogers, poet, author of Song of the World Becoming and Generations

“Lisa Couturier writes with grace and heart about the wild animals that share the most densely populated human habitats with us. . . It's impossible to read this book without gaining a new appreciation of the interrelationships that infuse the most degraded of landscapes. “
Lorraine Anderson, writer, and editor of Sisters of the Earth

City Wilds: Essays and Stories About Urban Nature
Essay: "Reversing the Tides”
(University of Georgia Press, 2002)

This anthology, edited by Terrell F. Dixon, collects pieces that confront the nature found in urban environments. The assumptions we make about nature writing too often lead us to see it only as literature about wilderness or rural areas.
City Wilds broadens our awareness of American nature writing by featuring the flora, fauna, geology, and climates that enrich and shape urban life. Set in neither pristine nor exotic environs, these thirty-five stories and essays take us to rivers, parks, vacant lots, lakes, gardens, and zoos as they portray nature’s rich disregard of city limits.

Review Excerpt:
“It's probably a fair guess that the 80 percent of Americans now living in cities imagine a daily relationship with nature as wholly impractical. . .
City Wilds revises our traditional views of what nature is, locating it in less obvious places. . . Since reading Lisa Couturier's "Reversing the Tides," I now take a deep breath on my morning runs over New York City's Williamsburg Bridge, and perceive the East River stretching below me as a privilege to behold, and not, as I habitually saw it, a polluted, unfortunate waterway.”
NRDC - On Earth Review (full review)

American Nature Writing
Essay: “Heirloom”
(Fulcrum Publishing, 2002)

The ninth volume in the acclaimed series, American Nature Writing 2002 presents the year’s best nature writing from distinguished practitioners of the genre as well as from some of the most exciting talents of a new generation. These stories are testimonials to the power of place in our lives.

Heart of a Nation: Writers and Photographers Inspired by the American Landscape
Essay: “Rediscovering the Potomac”
(National Geographic Society, 2000)

In this wonderful exploration of the American landscape, 17 distinguished writers and photographers create a vivid, perceptive portrait of our nation’s natural beauty. Highlighted by 120 breathtaking images featuring thoughtful, evocative prose by award-winning authors, Heart of a Nation ranges from Vermont to Alaska, from the Appalachian foothills to the lofty peaks of the Sierra, from the still ponds of our southeastern wetlands to the stormy shores of the Pacific Northwest. It’s a magnificent portrait of our majestic land—and a journey of discovery no reader will ever forget.

American Nature Writing, 2000: A Celebration of Women Writers
Essay: “A Banishment of Crows”
(Oregon State University Press)

This acclaimed series, the leading showcase for contemporary nature writing, marks the new century with a special volume devoted to the writings of women. The contributors include three generations of women writers, both new and distinguished voices. In the words of editor John Murray, they “demonstrate the ability of women to move and change the world through the force of their words and the clarity of their vision.”

Review Excerpts:

“Among these nicely diverse essays are several standouts, such as Lisa Couturier's lovely memoir on walking through the crow-rich fields of Maryland.” (full review)

“This invigorating collection . . . offers examples of nature writing at its best, drawn from books, periodicals, and unpublished work. This time around, all the contributors are women. Lisa Couturier writes about drawing inspiration from observing crows' strong family bonds from her stone house on the Potomac River in Maryland. . .This is a strong and worthy compilation.”

Publishers Weekly (full review)

The Mountain Reader
Essay: “A Clandestine Freedom”
(Lyons Press, 2000)

The Mountain Reader is a collection of essays by mountain enthusiasts spanning 200 years and three continents. Editor John Murray groups the essays under three prominent themes: “communion” (with submissions by Isabel Byrd and Aldo Leopold), “renewal” (Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and Pulitzer Prize winner A. B. Guthrie) and “liberation” (Henry David Thoreau, Rick Bass, John Muir).

Review Excerpt:

"Literary mountaineers will recognize most of the pieces but a handful, including Lisa Couturier’s “A Clandestine Freedom,” are published here for the first time."
Publishers Weekly (full review)

American Nature Writing 1998
Essay: “Walking in the Woods”
(Sierra Club Books)

"American Nature Writing, 1998, the fifth volume in Sierra Club’s acclaimed series, presents the best of the genre from the previous year. Diverse in mood and setting, the nineteen selections—seven in print for the first time—include autobiographical writings, essays, short stories, and poems from some of America’s most distinguished nature writers as well as some gifted new voices. "
Sierra Club (full review)

The River Reader
Essay: "Reversing the Tides”
(Lyons Press, 1998)

The River Reader the Lyons Press inaugurates a new series of nature anthologies in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, dedicated to bringing readers the finest nature writing from the past and present.

Review Excerpts:
“Lisa Couturier writes movingly of New York’s damaged East River.”
The Amicus Journal (full review)

"John Murray has put together a wonderful collection of classic and contemporary nature writing. The placing of these pieces side by side gives one a real sense of the depth that nature writing as a genre has attained in this country in its 200-year history. Here are the wonderfully familiar pieces that many of us read in high school . . . And here too are the new voices of American nature writing . . . Lisa Couturier manages to write hopefully about a river that may be as lost as any river could possibly be, the East River in New York City."
Adirondack (full review)

"John Murray takes on an impossible task and almost pulls it off--summarizing all he knows and there is to know about rivers. . .Murray's task is daunting because there are so many distinct rivers in the U.S. . . Urban waters are also honored, New York City's East River is here and the nearby Arthur Kill; the writer is Lisa Couturier and she is excellent."
Underwater Naturalist (full review)

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