Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Only the Mountains Do Not Move by Jan Reynolds

Only the Mountains Do Not Move
A Maasai Story of Culture and Conservation
by Jan Reynolds
School & Library Binding, 40 pages

Published October 1st 2011 by Lee & Low Books

Only the Mountains Do Not Move: A Maasai Story of Culture and Conservation

Premise: Ganked from Amazon:

Nobody can say he is settled anywhere forever;it is only the mountains which do not move from their places. 
So goes a Maasai proverb, and so goes the lives of the Maasai in Africa. For hundreds of years they have moved with their herds of cattle and goats across thousands of miles in Kenya and Tanzania. 
Today the Maasai face new challenges. Their traditional way of life is threatened, lands are overgrazed, and wildlife is in danger. Maasai tribes are meeting these obstacles head-on adapting their lives and agricultural practices while keeping their vibrant, close-knit culture alive. 
Award-winning author-photographer Jan Reynolds presents a striking glimpse of these dynamic people. Only the Mountains Do Not Move shows one Maasai tribe s remarkable ability to forge a delicate balance between the richness of the past and the needs of the future.
My Review:

I was surprised to see this book and I didn't hesitate to request it from NetGalley. The Maasai insist on continuing their culture despite everything and everyone and I love that about them.

When I studied Linguistics at the University of Oregon, SIL brought a Maasai over for us to learn aspects of their language. I focused on their numbering system, which is based on the livestock. I will never forget hearing the pounding in our ceiling and running up to the guy's hall to see what was going on and finding our Maasai friend showing his roomates how to do the Maasai leap.

I read this book with a specific picture of the their culture in my head from our friend's stories. Many of the things in the book resonated true with me. A family took the author in and showed her a lot of their life.

Some of the book is obviously "nice" keeping it kid-friendly. There is mention of cow dung used in the mud for the huts, but it is discreet compared to what I had heard, which is good. :-)  She was similarly discreet regarding their food. She mentions drinking blood, but only in the Author's Note at the back. The danger of the wild African landscape is also downplayed. The women travel in groups and the men are skilled with their spears, but there are only hints at running into lions often. So, kids have a great introduction into this unique culture while adults are given more.

What I enjoyed the most is the details in the day to day life. The author captured things my friend didn't share, like how big their homes are, how big the community, just how free their livestock is to forage. The pictures show them creating bracelets and playing games and how the men stay together in a group. The author captured the every-day life.

She also highlighted how their environment has shrunk and their way of life is threatened and what they are doing to adapt. The stories that are their education have passed on a strong culture generation after generation.  They continue to be fiercely their own.

I think there is a lot more that isn't shared, but this book is still a great peak into the Maasai way of life.

My Rating:  5 - Love it!

The Author:   Jan Reynolds

Jan Reynolds Download a free copy of some of her skiing adventure through Nepal and Tibet.

"A writer and photographer who just can't get far enough away from it all. Her favorite thing is to escape to an extreme environment, and hang out with the locals to learn about their culture and their point of view. And if she gets a chance to ski and climb, she's really happy."  See more of her Vanishing Culture series of books on her website.