- Age Range: 12 and up
- Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Simon Pulse; Abridged edition (February 27, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743412575
- ISBN-13: 978-0743412575
- Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.1 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,805,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Give Me My Father's Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo Mass Market Paperback – Abridged, February 27, 2001
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At last returning to print, Give Me My Father's Body is the thought-provoking tale of Minik, a young Inuit boy brought to New York by Robert Peary around the turn of the 20th century. Told simply and interspersed with personal letters and newspaper clippings, the book examines Minik's life both as a cross-cultural meeting place and a deeply personal search for a place to call "home." Photographs throughout of Minik give a glimpse into the incredible differences between the multiple worlds he inhabited, and how impossible it must have been to live in these worlds successfully. The title derives from one of Minik's more harrowing experiences--finding his father's bones displayed in a natural-history museum as a "curiosity"--and his attempts to retrieve the bones for a more respectful burial. Author Kenn Harper, while including many facts and articles about Arctic exploration, refrains from sharing opinions about the various explorers or their methods, choosing to share this story--and his years of research--plainly. From the death of Minik's birth father to the financial ruin of his American foster family, the events of Minik's childhood seem like one disaster after another, and his adulthood--the successful return to Greenland, followed by disappointment and a subsequent return to New York--is an unhappy struggle to find some kind of personal fulfillment. Questions of racial and cultural differences make an inescapable larger framework for Minik's life, and the emotions brought forward in answering those questions make reading this book a powerful experience. --Jill Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
When six-year-old Minik was chosen as one of six Eskimos from Qaanaaq, Greenland, to accompany explorer Robert Peary to New York City in 1897, he expected a brief adventure. Instead, he became an orphan and an exile. Treated as scientific curiosities, Minik's father and three others quickly succumbed to pneumonia, leaving the boy alone after the only other survivor returned to Greenland. Adopted by a middle-class family, Minik enjoyed a few relatively happy years until the family suffered financial disgrace. Peary refused to help support the boy or finance his return to Greenland, and Minik languished in poverty for several years. The horrific climax to his ordeal came when Minik learned that his father's body had been put on display at the American Museum of Natural History. Though his efforts to claim the body launched a media frenzy, they ultimately failed. Minik eventually returned to Greenland, where he had to relearn his native language and customs. Feeling marginalized among his people, he returned to the U.S. in 1916 only to die here two years later. Harper, who has lived for more than 30 years in the Arctic and is fluent in the Canadian Eskimo language, tells Minik's story straightforwardly and with sympathy. Yet he adheres so scrupulously to Minik's letters and other written accounts that his narrative is sometimes dry. As a tale of scientific arrogance, however, the book is chilling; as a portrait of an exploited, charming, intelligent, needy, sometimes vengeful and culturally ambivalent individual, it is truly unforgettable. B&w photographs. (Apr.) BOMC selection; rights sold in England, France, Germany and Spain; film rights optioned by Kevin Spacey.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Harper tells this tragic story with remarkable control, and Kevin Spacey contributes a brief but engaging foreword to the book, which he is working to make into a motion picture.
This book grabbed my attention when I saw it on a book shelf yesterday and held my attention until I finished reading it in the early hours of this morning. What was new to me was the tale of Minik and the first transport of his Inuit people to New York in 1897. I found the details of their lives in Greenland to be a refreshing filling of my vacant knowedge of this group of people.
This is a tale of (what I perceive to be)corruption on the part of hallowed institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History and the explorer Robert Peary. With only a modicum of knowledge of American history of the sciences I found the roles of Franz Boas, Peter Freuchen and other historical noteables to be fascinating as they became important embroidery to the content of this story. For those of us who discuss (on our better days 80) the emotional issues surrounding the interaction between "scientists" and native peoples there are potentially positive responses from each camp of readers. Folks who see "scientific" study of native peoples to be fraught with potential or acutal abuse and misuse will be able to say 'here we go again; science with no conscience'. Though this is not addressed in the book, those from the science side of the issue will be able to point out how much science has changed. Perhaps, those of us between camps will be able to see both perspectives and, hopefully, be a part of dialogue which could find a way of bringing together people who have been separated for so long, and perhaps we shall be able to ensure such an incident does not happen again.
While parallels between Minik and Ishi are perhaps inescapable, the life of Minik, brought to us by author Kenn Harper, was to me utterly believable and accessible. Harper's writing style I found to be clear and empathetic. His research appeared to be quite subtantial if not exhaustive. For those who like a linear style of story, this should be an easy read.
In the end it is a story of human cultural diversity and how diverse values play out in the lives of human beings. The author described those who may be viewed here as villans carefully including historical context. I found myself swept along by my own biases and felt very different attitudes about "science" than the author exhibited in the telling of the story. I appreciate an author who can engender such a response from me as a reader.
The story is a unique specific of a familiar American generality. Minik was caught between two worlds, a victim of a society's unwillingness to question things done in the name of science. Ultimately, this is a very human story. I found the story at times heart warming, at others heart breaking, but always educational.