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Beauty and the Beasts: Woman, Ape and Evolution Hardcover – July 1, 2001
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
From Publishers Weekly
Anyone who's interested in the human sex drive, mothering or criminality will find provocative material in this study of our evolutionary cousins and the women who've researched them. From "trimates" Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birut Galdikas to the next generation of female field-workers they inspired, women have dominated primatology thanks to their patience, dedication and perhaps, as Louis Leakey suggested, some predisposition to communication with nonverbal creatures. These women have faced remarkable risks to study the creatures they loved (and often to protest the actions of poachers and other human intruders): Dian Fossey was killed on the job, and many others faced dangers ranging from civil war to angry apes. Jahme, an English primatologist and filmmaker, thoughtfully explores the work of female primatologists and its implications for the study of evolution, sex and gender. Her style is even more anecdotal and informal than Natalie Angier's, and equally political, especially in her analysis of the randy, female-bonded bonobo monkeys. She not only knows her science, but has a real knack for making it comprehensible to the uninitiated. Though Jahme occasionally digresses too far into the love lives of her field-workers, she always returns, to her readers' delight, to her apes ape sex, ape infanticide, ape intelligence and to the remarkable relationship between woman and beast. 45 illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Sara Fisher (U.K.). (July)Forecast: The jacket art depicting a pretty, sarong-draped woman eyeing a coy simian may raise some eyebrows, but as primate research clearly shows, sex appeal guarantees survival of the species. If this book is well displayed and receives the review attention it deserves, it should find a solid perch on the nature bookshelf.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Sue Howell of the Primate Foundation of Arizona analyzed a sample of people in the field of primatology in 1999, determining that while men held more academic positions than women, women outnumbered men three to one as students. British primatologist Jahme explores this imbalance, arguing that women become emotionally attached to the animals they study and thus are ideal for pursuing long-term primate studies. Men instead "publish papers, push their careers forward and move on" to stations in academia. The author touches on primate studies, but her emphasis is squarely on the people rather than the science. Jahme examines the lives of such primatology notables as Jane Goodall, Birute Galdikas, and Dian Fossey, detailing the relationships and life events that shaped their pursuit of this vocation. At times she goes too deep into personal matters love affairs and such that have little bearing on her subjects' careers. And she gives short shrift to the pioneers who happened to be male: in her opinion, giants like Robert Yerkes and Harry Harlow missed the big picture. Still, Jahme provides useful biographical information on less celebrated female primatologists such as Jeanne Altman, Barbara Smuts, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, and Mariko Hiraiwa-Hasegawa. An appropriate addition to history of science and women's studies collections. Raymond Hamel, Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Ctr. Lib., Madison
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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This book does a real disservice to the intelligent, dedicated women who have devoted themselves to primatology. Readers would be better served by reading the excellent books of primate researcher Sue Savage-Rumbaugh.
The subject matter is riveting: Women who sacrifice their lives to the study of primates. They risk being mauled by the subjects of their observations, eaten by lions, gored by bulls, kidnapped, raped--by both terrorists and orang-utans--and murdered. They often sacrifice their familial relationships, the opportunities of husbands and children and social interaction with other human beings. Carole Jahme takes on an enormous amount of material in her well organized and easily accessible book.
I disagree with some of her politics, particularly regarding motherhood and infanticide. We are given case after case citing the importance of young primates fully bonding with their mothers, yet Jahme repeatedly excuses the many female primatologists she profiles for all but abandoning their young children. She also argues that infanticide is biological and defends British law which generally punishes the crime with probation and psychiatric care. I cannot excuse a mother murdering her baby, particularly in developed Western countries where women have options. Despite our biological urges, we have moral obligations to rise above nature. But these represent mere paragraphs in a highly enjoyable book.
The editing, however, is no less than criminal as it unavoidably undermines Jahme's scholarly credibility. There are numerous grammatical errors and confusing sentences. Most unfortunate are the several dozen typos. Of the most notable are on page 240 where we are informed that "Picasso also sketched a money painting a nude woman" and on pages 299-300 where primatologist Amy Parish is twice referred to as "Paris" rather than Parish. This is inexcusable.
I also find the title and cover design/photograph inappropriate. Both seem a bit trite for this intellectual undertaking and tend to perpetuate the stereotype of lovely Western white women in the jungle living as one with the animals.
All criticisms aside, I recommend this book. It offers insightful perspectives toward the evolution of human beings and the sentience of all life--there is God in everything. We are left with the realization that though we as the dominant species can sing arias and build hospitals, we are not entitled to hold barbaric dominion over earth. "Beauty and the Beasts" is a worthwhile read (though I might wait for a revised edition).
Jahme strikes a good balance between the work and the women, relating the dangers and controversies along with the triumphs. Jane Goodall left Gombe for two years after she was nearly abducted by terrorists in 1975 (four other workers were taken and later ransomed) and she has been criticized for influencing chimp behavior by using feeding stations (a practice she also now condemns). Dian Fossey was only in the Congo a few months when she was kidnapped and repeatedly raped by soldiers in 1967. She was the last white person to escape the Eastern Congo and all she wanted to do was get back to her gorillas, which she did, establishing a base on the Rwandan side of the mountain. Over the years her reputation for eccentricity grew as she risked her life and battled poachers and eco-tourism in an effort to save her beloved gorillas from extinction. Fossey was murdered in December 1985 and Jahme believes her sacrifice saved the gorillas, at least for now. Birute Galdikas has all but sacrificed her scientific reputation in her passion to save the rain forests and the orangutans of Borneo.
But Jahme moves far beyond the three leading ladies of primate study. She discusses Sarah Hrdy's discovery of the link between female promiscuity and male infanticide, Jo Thompson's study of the female-bonded bonobos, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh's work with apes and language, Thelma Rowell's successful challenge of male dominance theories among baboons, Barbara Smuts' work with chimps, dolphins and baboons. Just to name a few.
She explores how understanding of primate behavior has helped shape our understanding of human evolution and how field observation overturned the traditional male approaches and assumptions, until science came to embrace the idea that animals have emotions and are capable of love, murder and tool use. She profiles the women who rehabilitate captive chimps into the wild, sacrificing years of their lives in an effort that, more often than not, seems to end in death and heartbreak. She explores the lives of captive chimps in showbusiness, in American Sign Language programs, in zoos and laboratories. Captive apes, we learn, love to watch TV. A universally favorite movie is "Quest for Fire." Jiggs, star of the early Tarzan movies, and at 68, the oldest chimp in captivity, prefers his own performances above all.
The book's scope is tremendously ambitious and Jahme manages to interview almost everyone she mentions. It's a massive feat of organization, so well done it seems almost seamless. There is so much fascinating source material that the choice of what to leave out must have been daunting. In each chapter she presents biographical and research anecdotes that best illustrate the work and the people conducting it.
Her decision to include details of the personal and sexual lives of these prominent field researchers serves to underscore points of commonality with their animal subjects and to illustrate a pattern - an inability or unwillingness to commit to human relationships. With few exceptions, these women put non-human primates first.
While Jahme's prose is less than scintillating (nothing a good editor couldn't have fixed), her writing is clear, accessible and entertaining. It's an excellent introduction to the community of primate research and may spark interest in a broad audience. Her extensive (partial) bibliography will steer interested readers to more in-depth studies, particularly the many fascinating books of the field researchers Jahme profiles.