A fine reference and research tool, written with a gracefulness that belies its thoroughness.

BEAUTY AND THE BEASTS

WOMAN, APE AND EVOLUTION

An examination of the extraordinary contributions of female primatologists to the advancement of the field, from primatologist and documentary filmmaker Jahme.

In what is primarily a survey of primate research, Jahme asks the question: Why is it that the best of that research (behavioral ecology in particular) has been conducted by women? It is not the first time that the question has been posed. The author touches briefly upon some conjectures—that women are drawn to primates in search of a lost innocence, for example, or a basic simplicity—but feels most at ease with the notion that women have a facility for communicating telepathically (what the French call complicité) with non-human primates, as a mother would with a child, wordlessly and preternaturally. Jahme then settles comfortably into her overview (with some fine individual portraits) of the women who have undertaken such risky and, in their hands, rewarding work. The research of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas is given detailed coverage, but what is of particular value in this account is the exposure given to other women in the field. Examples include Jeanne Altman’s standards of field research and Thelma Rowell’s study of the baboon’s peaceful matriarchy; Umeyo Mori’s research into the social development of the macaques and Mariko Hirawa-Hasegawa’s coercive sex studies; Sarah Hrdy’s sexual-behavior observations and Devendra Singh’s remarkable work regarding beauty and proportion. Jahme also investigates the history of women and apes in film, and forays into verbal communication with primates, among other topics. She also looks at one of the most awkward challenges faced by women in the field: “They fear that if their science becomes known as a ‘female vocation’ their work will be diminished within the world of science, which is still male dominated and inherently chauvinistic.”

A fine reference and research tool, written with a gracefulness that belies its thoroughness.

Pub Date: July 9, 2001

ISBN: 1-56947-231-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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Drawings, words, and a few photos combine to convey the depth of a tragedy that would leave most people dumbstruck.

A FIRE STORY

A new life and book arise from the ashes of a devastating California wildfire.

These days, it seems the fires will never end. They wreaked destruction over central California in the latter months of 2018, dominating headlines for weeks, barely a year after Fies (Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, 2009) lost nearly everything to the fires that raged through Northern California. The result is a vividly journalistic graphic narrative of resilience in the face of tragedy, an account of recent history that seems timely as ever. “A two-story house full of our lives was a two-foot heap of dead smoking ash,” writes the author about his first return to survey the damage. The matter-of-fact tone of the reportage makes some of the flights of creative imagination seem more extraordinary—particularly a nihilistic, two-page centerpiece of a psychological solar system in which “the fire is our black hole,” and “some veer too near and are drawn into despair, depression, divorce, even suicide,” while “others are gravitationally flung entirely out of our solar system to other cities or states, and never seen again.” Yet the stories that dominate the narrative are those of the survivors, who were part of the community and would be part of whatever community would be built to take its place across the charred landscape. Interspersed with the author’s own account are those from others, many retirees, some suffering from physical or mental afflictions. Each is rendered in a couple pages of text except one from a fellow cartoonist, who draws his own. The project began with an online comic when Fies did the only thing he could as his life was reduced to ash and rubble. More than 3 million readers saw it; this expanded version will hopefully extend its reach.

Drawings, words, and a few photos combine to convey the depth of a tragedy that would leave most people dumbstruck.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3585-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Abrams ComicArts

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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