View Post

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

In Book Reviews, Conservation, Nonfiction, Trees by Jacki SkoleLeave a Comment

I approached Hope Jahren’s memoir, Lab Girl, with a bit of trepidation. You see, Jahren is an award-winning geobiologist who studies plants, making her area of expertise one in which I’ve never had much interest. (Confession: I can’t tell an oak from a maple or a peony from a petunia.) So when The New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani wrote that Lab Girl “does for botany what Oliver Sacks’ essays did for neurology,” I was persuaded to pick up the book. I’m glad I did, for Lab Girl is as much a paean to self-discovery and enduring friendship as it is an illuminating introduction to the life of plants. Hope Jahren grew up in rural Minnesota. As a young girl, she spent her days with her mother, the two immersed in literature and poetry as her mother worked toward a bachelor’s degree in English literature. She spent her evenings with her father, playing in his laboratory at the community college where, for more than four decades, he taught introductory physics and earth science. The lab was her father’s sanctuary, and it became Jahren’s, too. So strong was its pull that, even as an adolescent, she knew that one day she, too, …

View Post

My Last Continent: A Novel by Midge Raymond

In Birds, Book Reviews, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Fiction, Oceans, Veganism by John YunkerLeave a Comment

I’m happy to announce the publication of contributor Midge Raymond’s debut novel My Last Continent (Scribner). This novel wears the “eco-fiction” label quite well. The novel focuses on penguin researchers in Antarctica and their struggles to protect creatures who are at the mercy of changing climate and increased tourism. The book also has a plot element that has long been a concern from those who work in Antarctica: A tourist vessel hits ice and begins to sink, with rescuers more than half a day away. Here are a few reviews My Last Continent has received so far: “Atmospheric and adventurous…the story and vivid writing will keep readers glued to the pages.” — Library Journal “An atmospheric tale of love discovered, and losses endured, in Antarctica. … The unpredictability of the splendors and terrors of life at the southern pole creates a backdrop of foreboding entirely appropriate for the story’s cinematic resolution [and] the authentic rendering of the setting distinguishes Raymond’s novel from other stories of love in perilous times and places.” —Kirkus Reviews “The desolate landscape of Antarctica provides an ideal backdrop to the ever-shifting relationship of Deb and Keller…Midge Raymond’s debut novel is a sensitive exploration of how even the smallest action can ripple through …

View Post

Engineering Eden: The True Story of a Violent Death, a Trial, and the Fight over Controlling Nature

In Animal Behavior, Book Reviews, Endangered Species, Nonfiction, Wolves by John YunkerLeave a Comment

The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. And while a century may seem like a long time, it’s safe to say, after reading Engineering Eden, that we’re only just beginning to understand how to best manage our lands. Fundamental to management is the question of how “wild” do we want our parks to be? Author Jordan Fisher Smith writes: There are two ways in which most people don’t wish to die: by being torn apart by a wild animal and by being roasted in flames. These two abject fears from deep in the ape-psyche, became, in the American West, bloated government programs, the two-headed dragon that Starker Leopold fought all his life. In the early days of the park systems, we waged a war on predators that effectively eradicated them from most of the United States. In 1915, Congress authorized the killing of 11,000 coyotes in California, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, and Utah. Wolves, bobcats, mountain lions were also killed in massive numbers, primarily to rid the government lands of predators that might attack livestock. Interestingly, bears were largely given a pass in our national parks because they were a major tourist attraction. Shows were conducted in Yellowstone in which people would sit …

View Post

New EcoLit Books: Spring/Summer 2016

In Book Publishers, Fiction, Nonfiction by John YunkerLeave a Comment

So many books, so little time! Because we can’t review every book that catches our eye I thought we should at least try to mention  new and upcoming books periodically. So here are the recent books that were mentioned to us. Cultivating Environmental Justice: A Literary History of U.S. Garden Writing by Robert S. Emmett UMass Press Enchanted Islands: A Novel by Allison Amend Nan A. Talese/Doubleday Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal Pia and the Skyman By Sue Parritt Perils of Payeto, Saving the Last Vaquita Porpoise by Tio Stib If you’re a publisher and have upcoming eco-literature or eco-fiction to promote, please let me know via this form.

View Post

Book Review: The Dog Merchants

In Book Reviews, Nonfiction by Jacki SkoleLeave a Comment

Most dog lovers consider their canines loyal companions, best friends, or beloved family members. (Count me in that last category.) The American legal system considers them property. Journalist Kim Kavin, in her new book, The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers, suggests that we view dogs in a more provocative way—as products, not unlike the chicken and steak, veal and pork, that line “that big case of meat in the supermarket.” After all, she tells readers, some thirty million dogs are bought and sold each year, in what is estimated to be an $11 billion-a-year global marketplace. The Dog Merchants is not Kavin’s first foray into the business of dogs. She began digging into the issue for the book Little Boy Blue, which focuses on America’s taxpayer-funded animal shelters and the burgeoning rescue movement. What she learned doing that research inspired her to look beyond shelter dogs to the myriad ways dogs are sold worldwide, be it by breeders, pet stores, animal shelters, rescue groups, or dog auctions. In all of these transactions—whether they are called purchases or adoptions—dogs are exchanged for dollars. And all those dogs exchanged for all those dollars add up to …

View Post

Holy Mōlī: Albatross and Other Ancestors

In Animal Behavior, Birds, Book Reviews, Conservation, Endangered Species, Nonfiction, Oceans by John YunkerLeave a Comment

The Laysan albatross is known as Mōlī in Hawaiian. It is difficult not to speak in superlatives when describing the albatross. The bird has a wingspan longer than most humans are tall. Albatross far outlive most other birds — with one active albatross now 64 years old. They spend most of their lives  at sea, gliding just a few inches above the waves. Only 5% of their lives are spent on land — and this is where they are particularly vulnerable, when they are breeding and caring for their chicks. Author Hob Osterlund is founder of the Kaua’i Albatross Network an organization that works to protect these birds. And through her writing you experience firsthand the challenges she and the birds face in establishing their relatively new colony. Generation by generation, Osterlund shares a wealth of stories, some happy and some not so. Like the story of twin chicks, born to a couple that cannot possibly provide for both. Osterlund writes: If you are like a lot of people, you might interrupt me now. You might ask if there wasn’t a way to hand-feed the chicks. I would have to refer you to Aaron; feeding a seabird is more complex than feeding a songbird. You have to be trained and officially authorized to slurry a squid …

View Post

Book Review: Whippoorwill

In Animal Rights, Children's Books, Fiction by Anna MondersLeave a Comment

When sixteen-year-old Clair Taylor’s neighbors get a dog and leave him staked in the yard in freezing weather, she tries to ignore the whimpers and cries—the clear neglect—that is going on outside her window. The dog is none of her business, and Mr. Stewart, the neighbor, is a rude and abusive man. Eventually the dog’s suffering becomes too much for Clair, and she begins visiting him. His name is Wally. His neck is chafed raw. He’s covered in mud and poop. And he goes crazy for attention. Clair wishes she hadn’t closed her eyes to the situation for so long. Through the dog, Clair gets to know the neighbor’s son Danny, a boy her age she has lived next to her whole life but never really talked to before. A bit like the dog, Danny is starving for kindness. As they spend time together trying to train Wally, it seems that Danny likes her. The heart of the story is Clair feeling her way through changing relationships—with the dog, with her father, and with Danny. Whippoorwill is beautifully written. The rural working-class setting is vivid, and the story not only shows how an animal can bring people together, but also how …

View Post

Introducing The Hopper

In Fiction, For Writers, Journals and Magazines, Nonfiction, Poetry, Writing Opportunities by John YunkerLeave a Comment

I’m pleased to introduce the new environmental literary journal The Hopper, along with a Q&A with the founders.   Tell us a bit about The Hopper and how it came to be. Green Writers Press (our mother organization) produced one issue of a more casual and smaller distribution magazine called Greenzine last April 2015. When Sierra Dickey got involved with GWP as a poetry editor, the previous editors of Greenzine had since left the press. She was interested in the periodical process and decided to revive the publication and bring it up to a place where it could compete with other regional literary magazines.   What types of writing are you looking for? We are interested in writing that examines the intersection of nature and culture, that explores human and more-than-human connections, and that articulates unique human experiences in nature. We are also interested in work that challenges environmental injustice and investigates the impacts of modernity. We publish poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, science narratives, ecocriticism, interviews, and book reviews, in addition to visual art.   Any contests? We are currently running our first annual Hopper Prize for Young Poets poetry contest. The winning chapbook will receive $500 and publication. Please do learn …

View Post

Zoomorphic magazine now accepting submissions

In Animal Behavior, Animal Rights, Journals and Magazines, Writing Opportunities by John YunkerLeave a Comment

We first introduced Zoomorphic a year ago with this Q&A. Zoomorphic is now accepting submissions for their next two issues. Here is the call: Zoomorphic magazine was founded a year ago and is now an established eco-literature publication. We have featured work by many award-winning and respected international writers in our first 5 issues. We are now seeking submissions of fiction, journalism and creative non-fiction for our summer and autumn issues. We are happy to receive material from published and unpublished writers, and will give editorial feedback to new writers with strong ideas. Work concerning oceanic wildlife is particularly encouraged. Essays and fiction should be between 500 and 3000 words. Submissions guidelines can be found here: zoomorphic.net/submissions. Or contact James Roberts (editor@zoomorphic.net) to discuss your ideas.  

View Post

Book Review: Rescued

In Animal Rights, Book Reviews, Children's Books, Endangered Species, Fiction by Mindy MejiaLeave a Comment

Rescued, Eliot Schrefer’s third entry in his anticipated quartet of ape novels published by Scholastic, represents a departure in many ways from the first two books in the series. Endangered and Threatened both took place in Africa and featured early teen narrators fighting to survive alongside bonobos and chimpanzees. In Rescued, Schrefer brings his series to the United States and introduces us to John, a sixteen-year-old football player who is the product of a broken home, and Raja, the orangutan his father smuggled into the country to become the family’s pet. We first meet these two as they are separated, Raja banished to the backyard and a younger John bedridden with a pneumonia that may have been contracted from Raja. They communicate by a homemade sign language through John’s bedroom window and eventually Raja becomes desperate to reunite, breaking the window frame and ultimately wounding John. Fast forward four years and John is living across the country with his mother while Raja has stayed behind with John’s unemployed father. Unable to keep Raja or his foreclosed house, John’s father contacts a place called Friendly Land—a tourist attraction with rides and exotic animals—that John begins to suspect will not provide a good …