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Broken Spears: A Maasai Journey Hardcover – August 28, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (August 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871138409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871138408
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 0.8 x 13.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,111,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An American war photographer based in Nairobi for most of the '90s, Gilbert abandoned the carnage of Rwanda, Somalia and the Sudan in 1998 and set out "to get back to the richness of the land and its heritage." For her, that meant the 5,000-square-mile tribal reserve of the Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania via a four-year sojourn sponsored by Kodak and Corbis, the photo archive owned by Bill Gates. Famous fighters who grace countless "postcards, T-shirts, safari advertisements, and hotel logos" in Africa, the Maasai and their way of life are simultaneously overexposed and subject to "[e]ducation and the demands of a modern economy" that are driving the remaining 400,000 or so members apart. In the text, Gilbert yearns after "something purely African," and her treatment of the Maasai is a mixed bag of nostalgia, understanding, incomprehension, glorification and attempts at cultural relativism that are sorely strained by the "female circumcision" (ritual removal of the clitoris) that is compulsory for Maasai women, as well as other practices. But if one takes the text as secondary, many of the 120 b&w photos and 40 historical illustrations emerge powerfully. Beyond the expected elders sitting proudly for portraits, warriors roaming the plains with spears raised and lion-hunt carnage, Gilbert, with serious reservations, manages to get inside the hut where a woman is "circumcised" (she documents the circumcision of a man as well) and reveals a few emotional chinks in the Maasai armor. While she does not succeed in making their way of life fully comprehensible to outsiders, she does set it in dramatic relief.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"A skilled, intimate, and remarkable portrayal of an enigmatic culture that goes well beyond the usual stereotypical treatment of the Maasai. Gilbert's work is a valuable contribution to the honorable photographic tradition of tribal studies."

More About the Author

Elizabeth Gilbert is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love, as well as the short story collection, Pilgrims--a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and winner of the 1999 John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares. A Pushcart Prize winner and National Magazine Award-nominated journalist, she works as writer-at-large for GQ. Her journalism has been published in Harper's Bazaar, Spin, and The New York Times Magazine, and her stories have appeared in Esquire, Story, and the Paris Review.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I read this pictorial record of the Maasai in one sitting from start to finish. Rather than being just another coffee table book with pretty pictures, Liz Gilbert intersperses her photographs with insightful essays documenting Maasai history, rituals, and traditions such as marriage, male and female circumcision, coming of age, and even a lion hunt with spears.
Gilbert has clearly done her homework regarding the Maasai, spending many years in Kenya to gain the trust of the tribesmen who allowed her to document their most intimate rituals. The black and white photographs she has assembled have a museum quality about them, especially the portraits.
The author took serious personal risks to achieve these photographs, with the lion hunt at the end representing but one example of her courage. Clearly, the book documents not only the vanishing society of the Maasai, but also a personal journey for the author. This book should be an inspiration for anyone interested in Africa.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert B. Stevens on February 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Most photographers either see the members of the noble Maasai tribe hastily when they are tourists or as photojournalists with limited time. Their images don't get far below the surface. On the other hand, photographer Elizabeth Gilbert worked many years, carefully and slowly to gain the Maasai's trust and understand who they are. The result of her efforts is abundantly clear in this moving book that documents their world in a great detail. We don't see flashy events performed for visitors but intimate milestones in their life like the passage to manhood and the rite of marriage. The book leaves us with a clear sense of who these people are and where they came from. In addition, Gilbert has given us a breathtaking view of the country in which they make their home. It is a standout in a field full of Africa books.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a truly awe-inspiring book. I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in the Maasai or African cultures. In contrast to the recent slew of "white girl in Africa" books which have deluged newstands in recent years, Gilbert's book is a refreshing take on one of Africa's least accessible and mythologized cultures. Individually and collectively the photographs serve to honor a people who are consciously facing the erosion of their societial ways. Broken Spears is a must-have for any serious family book collection
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By Trevor A Jerideau on June 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book! Phenomenal photos!! Also very informative info on great African tribes and culture. I recommend this book for anyone into African art and culture. A great coffee table book and wonderful addition to anyone's photo book library.
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