Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Old Way (Book #18)

(Incidentally, I seem to be going through one of my nonfiction phases. I try to read fiction by new-to-me authors, but I keep being stymied by awkward voices, cliched characters, and the like. I won't name names, because I'm never sure whether it's the book or me, particularly when I'm being this difficult to please.)

So, after getting bored with a mystery three chapters in and turning to the end to find out whodunit, I turned my attention to The Old Way: A Story of the First People (Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, 2006). As a teenager in 1950, the author accompanied her parents and brother into the Kalahari to live among the Ju/wasi Bushmen. She recounts what they learned then about the Ju/wasi's way of life and beliefs and then provides a bit of an epilogue describing what's happened over the decades that followed. Basically, it's a sad tale--the old Kalahari lifeways have disappeared, crowded out by modernity, encroaching agriculture, and environmental degradation, and the Ju/wasi's efforts to adapt have been hampered by aid organizations' determination to force them to maintain a way of life that's no longer viable and isn't what they want. Depressing all around. But it's a fascinating book, and I'm going to seek out more of Thomas's writing on science and anthropology.

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