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Go and Come Back

by Joan  Abelove

Published by DK Ink, 1998

Ages 11 - 14

The year that two young American anthropologists spend in a Peruvian jungle village is chronicled by a young woman of that village in this sensitive, eye-opening novel. To Alicia and other Isabo villagers, the two "old ladies" who have come to study agriculture and babies in their community are far from ideal guests. They are stingy with the many things they have brought with them. They know nothing about manners, visiting the villagers at mealtimes then refusing the offerings of food that custom demands be made. They don't even know how to bathe properly until Alicia takes it upon herself to tell them. Yet Alicia, an astute observer, finds herself more and more interested in the two women and the world they represent, a world that she can only make sense of through her own experience and cultural values. She senses that even though they are ignorant, Joanna and Margarita are good people. And unlike her own mother, Alicia believes that goodness can be found beyond your own caibo, your own family group of affinity. In a narrative remarkable for its firmly grounded point of view and its finely rendered details of these South American indigenous people from an insider's perspective, and Western culture as represented by the two anthropologists from an outsider's perspective, Joan Abelove documents how cultural barriers to understanding can be transcended in small but significant ways through human connections in this finely crafted story. Alicia's perspective turns cultural grounding for U.S. readers on its side, and her voice is so authentic and honest and convincing that the reader's own point of view is transformed. The author, a cultural anthropologist who lived for two years in the Amazon jungle, based the village and its inhabitants on a real place and real people, but changed the names "out of affection and respect for those involved." That affection, and especially that respect, shine from the heart of this novel. (MS; May 25)  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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