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Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World Paperback – May 28, 2002

366 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When Rita Golden Gelman traveled to Mexico during a two-month separation from her husband, she hoped to satisfy an old craving for adventure and, in the process, rejuvenate herself and her marriage. Little did she know it was the beginning of a new life, not just as a divorcée, but as a nomad of the world. Since 1986, Gelman has had no permanent address and no possessions except those she can carry. She travels without a plan, guided by instinct, serendipitous opportunities, and a remarkable ability to connect with people. At first her family and friends accused her of running away, but Gelman knew she had embarked on a journey of self-discovery and a way of life that is inspiring and enviable.

We know Gelman is not your typical middle-aged housewife from LA when, on that first trip to Mexico, she randomly picks a Zapotec village and decides to live there for a month, knowing nothing about the culture or the language. When she arrives, the villagers run away from her, terrified. By the time she leaves, there are hugs and tears. From there she travels to Guatemala and Nicaragua, Israel and the Galapagos Islands. But the heart of the book--and her 15-year journey--is Indonesia, where she lives for eight years. It is Bali that forever changes how she looks at the world, facilitated by her friendship with an aging prince. Tu Aji not only invites her to live with his family but decides that the education of Rita will be his final duty in life. Wherever she goes, Gelman has an uncanny ability to slip into other ways of life and become part of a community. And she is a person for whom doors open widely--her seatmate on the plane to Bali scrawls the prince's name on a piece of paper, she talks her way into a sojourn at Camp Leakey in Borneo where orangutans are studied, and an entire village in a remote part of Irian Jaya prays for the clouds to clear so her plane can land--and they do! Gelmen's secret is her passion for people. That being the case, the book is short on descriptions of place, but long on the rarer inside view of the peoples and customs of those places. This in itself is treat enough, but Gelman's animated and intimate story comes with a kicker--it's never too late to fulfill those dreams. --Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Fifteen years ago, the middle-aged Gelman (author of over 70 children's books, including More Spaghetti, I Say!) left behind an upscale California lifestyle and fading marriage to begin an odyssey that continues to this day. Using a well-paced and fluid writing style, Gelman describes how she observed orangutans in the rain forests of Borneo, canoed in Indonesia, ate psychedelic mushrooms in Mexico, and skirted landmines in Nicaragua. Wherever she travels, it is the people and their customs that intrigue her most, from the restrictive but culturally rich celebrations of a Hasidic family in Israel to the more relaxed but equally ritualized daily life of her new friends in Bali. Her enthusiasm for the people she meets and her ability to overcome the challenges faced by a woman traveling alone make for an engrossing and inspirational read. For all travel collections. Linda M. Kaufmann, Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts Lib., North Adams
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (May 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609809547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609809549
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (366 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

135 of 146 people found the following review helpful By Y Lin on May 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
I bought this book on a Friday evening, gobbled it up except for two chapters, finished it first thing in the morning, and lent it out by that afternoon. I was very interested in the reading the reviews that gave lesser ratings to this book. There were comments on poor or simplistic writing style and insufficient narrative or description of people and places... how utterly fascinating.
We all look at the world through different filters; thus the details Rita chose to share were those that were meaningful to her. She spends quite a few pages describing the long endearing antics she went through to avoid eating alone in a restaurant when she first arrived in Mexico... while she compresses 8 or so years in Bali into a chapter or so. This is the journey of a woman who reinvents herself at 48--it is the story of courage, of connection in far away places, of incredible growth, of living "successfully" as a single person. It is about Nicaragua, Bali, the Galapagos etc only as it relates to her story, and since *her* story is the one I needed to hear (as a 31 year old single female), I was very satisfied, inspired and grateful for the sharing.
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96 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Lady Murasaki on December 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Gelman's book, "Tales of a Female Nomad," is a testament to the human spirit, courage, and to our basic need to connect with others. It is a very personal account of her life as she goes through a divorce and discovers her individual self, without her husband, and through her numerous adventures. She goes to many places: Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Israel, Galapagos Islands, Indonesia, New Zealand, Canada, and Thailand. What surprises me about Gelman's style is her very personal approach. She reveals intimate details, especially about fears and insecurities, which made me I more and more drawn to her story. It is though she is inviting the reader to be a friend and to share her experiences. She travels unconventionally - without much of a plan and not just to capital cities. Her stories of the people she has met warms the heart and reveals a beautiful humanity that is shared among all cultures.
This book is wonderful for anyone, but I strongly recommend it to women all ages and walks of life. Shows how one can live their dream and take the road not taken.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Paulina S on January 6, 2013
Format: Paperback
"Tales of a Female Nomad" begins well. In tight, lively prose, the author describes how she travels to Mexico to escape her failing marriage and to live--on a moment's whim--with locals in a rural Zapotec village.

By page 29, however, I had shut the book in dismay and disgust.

First of all, until a drunken man pounds on her door late one night, it never occurs to Gelman (a well-educated woman in her late forties) that anything bad could happen to her.

Please don't get me wrong here--traveling the globe solo is admirable and an amazing adventure.
However, to waltz alone into a very different society without giving literally one thought to your personal safety goes beyond the naivete and "I'm not a worrier" claims of the author and, frankly, makes her sound like an idiot. The fact that she also has unprotected sex with a virtual stranger just adds to the sense of complete fecklessness.

Far worse, she witnesses this same inebriated man who frightens her--her host--beating his wife. Instead of trying to stop it or helping in any way, Gelman uses her anthropology training as an excuse not to "inflict" her culture on theirs, even while she feebly bleats about how she would have stepped in if she had felt the victim, Margarita, were in real danger.

Any time a woman is struck by a man, she IS in real danger. I would love to know what Gelman's gauge of suffering was and how she felt she could be so certain that the next blow wasn't going to permanently damage Margarita's hearing, or shatter her jawbone, or cause her to stumble and break her neck.

Instead Gelman just cries and later hugs Margarita, who's sporting two black eyes, and dismisses the incident with "This village, this marriage, this life are her destiny.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Christy Reves on July 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has an appreciation for travelling and the lessons one can learn about themselves from such experiences. Rita's travels and lifestyle change left me in complete awe and filled me with absolute admiration for the guts, courage, and trust that were required of her. This book will not only inspire the reader to embark on travels of his/her own, but will cause some much needed introspection into the routines that so many of us lead in our daily lives. This book serves as a shot in the arm to get out and experience life, others, and other places.
In the book, Rita allows the reader to vicariously experience her life with her. The reader cannot help but feel as if Rita Gelman is a good friend by the last page. And once the book is over it is hard to stop thinking about the incredible adventures and gutsy lady that comprise Rita Gelman.
Definitely read this book and check out some of her great children's books while you're at it. Rita is a true jewel and anyone who loves to read should be reading her books.
I look forward to future books and the book tour!
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