AFRICAN SILENCES

A journey through Equatorial Africa to study the fate of elephants and other wildlife produces a somber chronicle of irrevocable loss, relieved only by noted naturalist and novelist Matthiessen's lucid prose and concluding intimations of some redress. Matthiessen, a frequent traveler to Africa, began his investigation with a visit in the late 1970's to Senegal, Gambia, and the Ivory Coast, where the encroaching Sahel, unbridled hunting, and burgeoning populations had almost destroyed the elephant and wildlife population as well as the indigenous forest. As Matthiessen accompanied naturalists through the few preserves, often run-down and small, it became clear that the situation was even more grave than anticipated—``the animals are so scarce that they have no reality in daily life.'' It was a loss that went beyond conventional needs for preservation, for these animals have been the traditional totems and protectors of the clans. In 1986, Matthiessen returned to study the forest elephants of Gabon and Zaire, an area where ``a great silence'' descended after the depredations of the slave trade ended, allowing elephants to increase. But more recently, local wars and the enormous demand for ivory have ended this growth. In these equivalents of the Amazon rain forest, Matthiessen and his companions met pygmies, observed gorillas, and established that there are indeed two distinct kinds of elephants: forest and savannah, with a large intermediary hybrid group that wanders between the forest and grassland. The recent ban on ivory offers some hope of preserving the elephant, a species that, excepting fire and man, has ``more impact on habitat than any force in Africa.'' There are the usual incidents and frustrating run-ins with local bureaucrats, but Matthiessen offers much more: a moving and never-sentimental evocation of loss to both man and beast, infused with sympathy and realism. Vintage Matthiessen.

Pub Date: July 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-679-40021-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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