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Maya Roads: One Woman's Journey Among the People of the Rainforest Paperback – August 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (August 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569765480
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569765487
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #962,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Every once in a while I stumble upon a book that is so beautifully written and infused with so much intelligence and heart that it leaves an indelible mark on me. Mary Jo McConahay's Maya Roads is such a book. In its hungry passion and wide-eyed wonder, it's an extraordinary literary journey and a moving testament to a region and a life." —Don George, National Geographic Traveler, August 2011 Book of the Month


"A layered examination of a place and a people whose ancient culture is rapidly disappearing." —Kirkus


"From the moment Mary Jo McConahay steps into the deep Mexican jungle, you will follow her anywhere. In this extraordinary travel memoir, McConahay journeys through beauty, history, disappearing cultures, and revolution. . . . Her courage, keen observation, and open heart make her an unparalleled guide to this gorgeous, mysterious, sacred, and sometimes terrifying corner of the planet." 
Laura Fraser, author, An Italian Affair and All Over the Map


“Powerful, descriptive, spiritual and lush.”  —June Carolyn Erlick, editor in chief, Re:Vista: Harvard Review of Latin America, and author, A Gringa in Bogotá: Living Colombia’s Invisible War


"I can't imagine a better book to help us understand the power of the rainforest and of the Mayan cities, the way violence and majesty permeate both. . . . All that [McConahay has] seen in thirty years of covering death informs the deliciously melancholy view of life that infuses the book.  This is a superb book—thoughtful and reflective."  —Jim Handy, author, Gift of the Devil: A History of Guatemala and Revolution in the Countryside: Rural Conflict and Agrarian Reform in Guatemala


"What you hold in your hands is a gift of rare courage and insight. McConahay rips off the layers of a little-known world, exposing to us its hypnotic beauty--and violence--through her own experience. The author’s familiarity with the region and its people enables her to do what no one else before has done, setting incidents of the current crisis against centuries-old wisdom." —Jean Molesky-Poz, author of Contemporary Maya Spirituality


"Brilliant. Maya Roads takes the reader on an intense journey deep into tropical forest landscapes, described so eloquently one can feel the sweaty climate, see the birds wrapped in the indigenous women’s braids, and experience the stress as witnesses and survivors recount stories of repression and resistance. [It] combines the prose of a skilled journalist with the in-depth knowledge of a long time observer of the Maya peoples."  —Amy Ross, associate professor, Department of Geography, University of Georgia



"Mary Jo McConahay guides the reader of Maya Roads from enchanted jungles at the center of the Americas all the way to military roadblocks and nightmare massacres. Her own progress—from wide-eyed newcomer, wary of spiders and snakes, to world-experienced journalist familiar with the unblinking look of death--makes her the best sort of guide. She is innocence and experience; discoverer and knowing witness. The Maya believe we are nearing an end time; I cannot imagine a better chronicler of this time and place than McConahay.”  —Richard Rodriguez, PBS NewsHour, and author, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez and Brown: The Last Discovery of America

About the Author

Journalist Mary Jo McConahay began covering Central America as a war correspondent in the 1980s and lived in Guatemala for eleven years. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Rolling Stone, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Time and is included in several anthologies.

More About the Author

Ricochet is: "Extraordinary writing, evocative, riveting and wise." - Jake Bernstein, Pulitzer Prize investigative reporter
"A book for anyone who cares about the impact of war and the power of human relationships." - Lindsey Hilsum, award-winning television reporter, author of Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution
"Lush...captures the bloody violence swirling in the midst of beauty--an extraordinary piece of historical reportage." - June Carolyn Erlick, author of Disappeared, A Journalist Silenced, and editor-in-chief of ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America

Maya Roads literary awards: Grand Award, Society of American Travel Writers. International Book Awards 2013: Winner, Autobiography/Memoir, Best New Nonfiction, Best Travel Essay Book. Independent Publishers' Award 2013 Gold -- Best Travel Essay Book. National Geographic Traveler Book of the Month. Best Creative Nonfiction Book of the Year, Northern California Book Awards. For Maya Roads and other travel writing, McConahay has been named Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year, the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize in the genre.
"Mary Jo McConahay is to travel what M.F.K. Fisher is to food -- she goes deep."- Sonoma Magazine. Visit Maya Roads at www.mayaroads.com

The rainforest of southern Mexico and northern Guatemala -- I traveled it for years as a journalist but also because I am deeply taken by all culture Maya, ancient and modern. I believe in "deep travel;" Maya Roads does not avoid the violence that has ripped that part of the world with revolution and civil war -- I describe what I have seen. But I travel too in order to find the sacred Maya sites, to meet memorable people I would meet no other way, and to wonder at the ancient cities that speak even in ruins.

Praise for Maya Roads: "From the moment Mary Jo McConahay steps into the deep Mexican jungle, you will follow her anywhere. In this extraordinary travel memoir, McConahay journeys through beauty, history, disappearing cultures, and revolution. . . . Her courage, keen observation, and open heart make her an unparalleled guide to this gorgeous, mysterious, sacred, and sometimes terrifying corner of the planet." --Laura Fraser, author, An Italian Affair and All Over the Map

"Her own progress--from wide-eyed newcomer, wary of spiders and snakes, to world-experienced journalist familiar with the unblinking look of death--makes her the best sort of guide. She is innocence and experience; discoverer and knowing witness. The Maya believe we are nearing an end time; I cannot imagine a better chronicler of this time and place than McConahay." --Richard Rodriguez, PBS NewsHour, and author, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez and Brown: The Last Discovery of America

"A superb book, written with a reporter's sharp eye and the heart of witness." Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror and Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

Here is the book's own site: www.mayaroads.com

Read "On the Macal," a Solas Travel Writing Award winner (category: "Love," my story appearing in Best Women's Travel Writing 2012. "It's the Sauce," another Solas prize-winner -- Gold in "Travel and Food" -- appears in the Traveler's Tales anthology, Best Travel Writing 2011. "Sauce" is about about strange food, unconventional travel and -- you decide -- maybe a kind of love.



Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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She is very knowledgeable.
C.M. Rossi
The review intrigued me as the book covered both cultural and political changes in the Maya Rainforest from the past through the present.
Cheryl H.
Placing herself in these dangerous situations allows McConahay to bring the story to life.
mackenzie jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By mackenzie jones on July 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow! Beautifully told, objectively covered, by author, journalist and adventurer far ahead of her time. An early fascination with Central America, and all things Maya, had this woman risking her life while I was changing diapers. She skillfully weaves the story of the ancient Maya with the more current atrocities amid the Lacandon people and the rainforest. Placing herself in these dangerous situations allows McConahay to bring the story to life. I lived through these times, knew about the wars, later about the "Disappeared". I was aware of some US involvement. Still, I feel as though I just had a one semester course, given by a favorite teacher, on a subject I had no idea I'd find interesting. I am humbled. This will be my Christmas gift for 2012.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Prufrock on July 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. The author is a journalist who has spent years covering Central America. This is her memoir of her travels in the Maya Rainforests in Guatemala and Mexico. Her writing is beautiful and evocative, but it is primarily the hearbreaking story of the peoples of the forest, descendents of the ancient Maya, and how they have been brutalized by the modern world. McConohay is passionately political and stands in solidarity with these people.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Darrell Reads on August 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have never written a review here but I have never read a book like Maya Roads. It took me along with the author through the Central American jungle, noticing the smallest flower or the sound of jaguars, but also gave eyewitness descriptions of some of the most important historical scenes in the last 30 years, including war and the aftermath of massacres. I had no idea the place, a continuous rainforest which is half in Chiapas, Mexico, and half in Guatemala, was so rich and so close; you don't have to go all the way to the Amazon to find the jungle. The author describes the ancient rainforest cities, and explains the spiritual life of the Maya, the calendar, and their symbols. She spends time with the Lacandon, who live in deep jungle and were never conquered and still dress in white gowns, men and women, direct descendants (some people believe) of the original Maya. You can see the author is in love with the place, and holds its modern-day Maya people in high respect, but she is not blind to drug running and corruption happening now. Some characters are unforgettable: a quirky archaeologist who is also a kind of visionary; a sad Maya priest whose language is about to disappear; a middle-age former Zapatista guerrilla who is just learning to read. The writing is very beautiful. I feel like I've just come back from a real world, but about as far away as you can get from my ordinary life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C.M. Rossi on August 10, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I went along with a neighbor to hear this woman at the World Affairs Council and
she was mesmerizing. I bought the book and I'm reading it and I see why I felt
swept along. She writes about war, Maya temples, archaeological sites, hidden lakes
and animals, all in the same flowing and fascinating voice, honest and really curious
about whatever she sees. She is very knowledgeable. It feels like I'm with her in
these experiences and I wish the trip could be longer. I'll probably get this book for
a couple of friends.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jean Grant on November 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
For starters, this is a most beautiful book--with its glorious cover photo and the illustrations of traditional Maya icons that preface each chapter. It's so rare to have pictures in adult books! But a book is the words, and how marvelously Mary Jo McConahay knits them together. Some of her images I will not forget--e.g. "at the nape of the neck, where the hair was gathered, each woman wore a clutch of dead birds. Those birds just hung there form the knots where the long, black hair had been pulled together, lushly colored dead birds that must have been somehow magically preserved, whose wearing marked the women as natural members of the forest, yet its conquerors, too, a race of queens."

Reading this travel memoir allowed me to enter strange places where I might not have the courage to go; it helped me to understand the politics that have made life so precarious for the Maya; it made me aware of the great beauty of creation. Pity and terror--that's what the ancients thought made for tragedy. There's plenty of both in this book. In these alluring and forbidding Maya Roads, McConahay is a trustworthy guide. And the book is "a page turner" to boot.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Patty on December 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
It's not every day that you get to do some armchair traveling with a guide as experienced as Mary Jo McConahay. That's what you get in Maya Roads and it's an experience that really stays with you, long after finishing the book. I start and put down a lot of books because they are either boring, poorly written or not important in any way. Maya Roads is just the opposite. It's a wonderful read, though deeply disturbing in places. It's personal without being a story about the writer. The book is so evocative of the Maya places, with beautiful, detailed descriptions, and a thorough knowledge of the areas. I also came away from the book with great admiration for the writer's courage. So often, the trips she takes are done and written by men, not women. Finally, the book documents the terrible abuses against the Maya, while at the same time, telling us about their ancient and remarkable culture, and why we should care.
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