Dreaming of Lions
My Life in the Wild Places
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has spent a lifetime observing other creatures and other cultures, from her own backyard to the African savannah. Her books have transported millions of readers into the hidden lives of animals—from dogs and cats to deer and lions. She’s chronicled the daily lives of African tribes, and even imagined the lives of prehistoric humans. She illuminates unknown worlds like no other. Now, she opens the doors to her own.
Dreaming of Lions traces Thomas’s life from her earliest days, including when, as a young woman in the 1950s, she and her family packed up and left for the Kalahari Desert to study the Ju/Wa Bushmen. The world’s understanding of African tribal cultures has never been the same since. Nor has Thomas, as the experience taught her not only how to observe, but also how to navigate in male-dominated fields like anthropology and animal science and do what she cared about most: spending time with animals and people in wild places, and relishing the people and animals around her at home.
Readers join Thomas as she returns to Africa, after college and marriage, with her two young children, ending up in the turmoil leading to Idi Amin’s bloody coup. She invites us into her family life, her writing, and her fascination with animals—from elephants in Namibia, to dogs in her kitchen, or cougars outside her New England farmhouse. She also recounts her personal struggles, writing about her own life with the same kind of fierce honesty that she applies to the world around her, and delivering a memoir that not only shares tremendous insights, but also provides tremendous inspiration.
Dreaming of Lions, originally published in hardcover as A Million Years With You, is slightly updated and includes a powerful new afterword by the author.
Reviews and Praise
"Naturalist Thomas (The Harmless People) transports readers into animal culture and behavior in this new version of her 2013 memoir A Million Years with You. The author travels to Africa, where she joins her parents in observing the indigenous tribes of the Kalahari Bushmen; Uganda, where she witnesses the brutality of former president Idi Amin; and New Hampshire. Looking back at her journeys in the Kalahari Desert in the early 1950s, Thomas beautifully describes her surroundings and the early connections she made with the wildlife. She also notes her observations of human interactions and how situations are different based on gender or status. She recalls stories of humility, learning and growing from others’ experiences, recounting her youth through adult life, and engages with the reader in joy and sorrow, which creates a deep connection that leaves you feeling like an old friend. VERDICT: This educational and heartwarming book is a suggested purchase.”
More Reviews and Praise
"'Since a choice between God and dinosaurs seemed unavoidable, I decided to believe in dinosaurs.’ Thus, the youthful Thomas (The Hidden Life of Deer, 2009) set her feet firmly on the path to biology. Beginning with what she learned in the New Hampshire woods, the author and naturalist slowly absorbed what science she could, but the fateful decision by her engineer father to take the entire family to the Kalahari gave her the lens through which she saw the world. Thomas reflects on her being forced to major in English in college, then her first several books (in anthropology, as people were considered more appropriate to study than animals). She talks of dark times: her recurring alcoholism, both her children’s serious accidents, and her husband’s ALS. But she also writes of the joy of discovery, of following a streetwise dog to see what he did all day, of studying elephant communication, and of getting to know local deer. Thomas has had a wonderfully eclectic life, thanks to her fascination with animals, writing, and the anthropology of the everyday.”
"From an early age, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has been enthralled with the natural world and she shares her keen observations from a lifetime of study in her memoir Dreaming of Lions. She carefully intertwines memories of her African experiences as her family followed the ways of the local Bushmen, or Ju/wasi, who lived near various waterholes in the Kalahari, with her adult life in the U.S. with her husband and children, their own journeys to Africa and their interactions with the Dodoth tribes. On these later trips, she encountered elephants and lions, hostility for being a woman and the violence of Idi Amin's regime. Thomas deliberately doesn't follow a timeline as she tells her life's story, grouping by subject matter and themes rather than chronologically, which gives readers an interesting perspective on how this woman's creative mind works. From microscopic waterbears living in a drop of swamp water to the leopards that prowled next to her as she slept near a waterhole to the cougar that killed a doe in her yard, Thomas shares her awe of nature with readers, providing insight into the ways of animals that is obtained only after years of careful scrutiny. Candid revelations about her own struggles with alcohol and the medical traumas endured by her family round out this undeniably powerful narrative of life that is reminiscent of The Flame Trees of Thika and Out of Africa.
"A novelist and bestselling nonfiction writer's account of her life and how she became a respected observer of the natural world. Thomas (The Hidden Life of Deer: Lessons from the Natural World, 2009, etc.) grew up a city girl in Cambridge, Massachusetts, not far from Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. From her engineer father, she came to love the wonders of the sky, and from her anthropologist mother, she learned that all creatures 'were on earth to be cared for.’ Direct experience with nature came from weekends and summers spent in rural New Hampshire. But thanks to the observational skills her parents encouraged her to hone, Thomas also learned about nature while watching the family's cats and dogs. As a teenager, she traveled with her parents to the Kalahari to study the Ju/wasi people where she learned about 'the rules that evolution set out for each species.' Though she longed to study biology in college, Thomas majored in English instead in part to prepare to be an articulate 1950s wife able to 'enhance her husband.' Even as she fulfilled social expectations for marriage and motherhood, her experience with anthropological fieldwork brought brilliant opportunities for research. A Guggenheim fellowship allowed Thomas to study the Dodoth people of Uganda. Later, the New Yorker gave her funds to travel to Nigeria, where her research into tribal life was interrupted by the start of a devastating civil war. Yet the good fortune and privilege that also allowed her to study lions in Namibia and wolves on Baffin Island did not render her immune from the vagaries of life. The author also battled alcoholism and contended with tragedies that left her daughter paralyzed and her son with a brain injury. Both wise and witty, Thomas' book celebrates nature as the best tonic for the ‘poison' that inevitably infiltrates even the most comfortable of human lives. A candid and humane memoir of a fascinating life.”
"We are lucky to have shared some time on Earth with Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. Like a shaman of words, she connects us as if by magic with other worlds hidden on our own planet. And she is the last best writer to have deeply witnessed with her own eyes the people at the cradle of humanity. Reading her is like looking through a telescope and realizing that the brightness you see actually happened long, long ago, and has taken all this time to reach your own eyes.”--Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
"Dreaming of Lions is as mesmerizing as its title. It's filled with lions, elephants, hyenas, and wolves; hunter-gatherers, tribal shamans, and African despots; death-defying escapes, dazzling victories, and personal struggles—and always-glorious prose. Staggeringly original and bluntly honest, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has written a book about a life lived fearlessly and fiercely—a life that not only forever changed the way we view other peoples but also transformed the way we understand the rest of animate creation."--Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus and The Good Good Pig
"Elizabeth Marshall Thomas's affirming, finely observed memoir recounts a life in the process of being fully and unapologetically lived; a gift from someone with an endlessly curious mind and more than eight decades on the planet. But perhaps the greatest gift of Dreaming of Lions is Marshall Thomas's signal talent: it leaves the reader feeling far less alone in the world, and much more deeply connected to it.”--Alexandra Fuller, author of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
"It would be a gross understatement to say that Dreaming of Lions is a stunning book. Thomas is confronted by Idi Amin in Uganda; she digs roots with women gatherers in the Kalahari. In Ibadan, Nigeria, she witnesses tribal violence, religious sacrifice, and resistance to western medicine. She is a keen observer of lions, hyenas, and wild wolves. All this is interwoven with her own personal history to form a memoir of extraordinary power.”--Maxine Kumin, author of Where I Live, and former United States Poet Laureate
"Elizabeth Marshall Thomas writes with all her sense of a lifelong love affair with our planet and its astonishing life. She is a meticulous observer of human diversity and the hidden ways of animals, responding with empathy and reminding us to look with wonder.”--Mary Catherine Bateson, author of Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom
About The Author
|Book Art:||Full color insert|
|Size:||6 x 9 inch|
|Publisher:||Chelsea Green Publishing|
|Pub. Date:||February 23, 2016|
Available In/Retail PricePaperback, 320 pages, $17.95
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