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Women of the Forest Paperback – Dec 8 2004


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Classic Study of Brazil's Mundurucu Indians Feb. 9 2007
By Rebecca of Amazon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"In the morning we sat behind our house drinking coffee and watching the mists rising from the hillside in thin tendrils that were said by the Indians (who knew that it was really mist) to be the campfire of a mythical inambu bird. And the evenings often closed in brilliant, iridescent sunsets, kaleidoscopes of shifting colors. It was an enchanted land existing in a distant place and peopled by descendants of a remote age. To enter it was to step through the looking glass."

What would it be like to be a woman living in the Brazilian Amazon Basin? What if you lived in the moment, survival being a daily challenge? How would you set up your life so you had the support you needed when a man walked out of your life leaving you to care for his children? The women in the Amazon have it all figured out. In the first four pages you see the exotic beauty and undeniable reality of life.

The authors were a newly married couple when they first walked into a Mundurucu village in 1952. This book was written in the 70s and explains life from the perspective of a female anthropologist. Yolanda spent time with the women who accepted her as a friend and sister. Robert spent time with the men and learned about the ways they felt towards the women and how seriously they took their religious beliefs. This book really does include both sides, but has a definite focus on women.

This is a fascinating study of how the Mundurucu women humor the "mythically dominant" males, how they care for their men and how they survive when their marriages don't work out. It is a story about how women have found a way to survive by bonding with other women and sticking together through life.

When you read this book you realize how universal women really are. They all seem to basically want the same thing. You have to laugh when you read how the women encourage their husbands to work harder so they can buy new clothes and are even quite willing to do the work themselves. In fact, from this book, it does appear both sexes are working rather hard all day long just to survive. Afternoon naps are however a necessity because of the heat.

This story is also a beautiful look at survival. Of how men and women depend on one another to meet their basic needs. In the Mundurucu society, women and men took on various roles and responsibilities although the women tended to do most of the menial tasks and raised the children. Sound familiar? Well life is changing all over the world and by the end of this book, you can see how the Mundurucu Indians have already adapted to change.

Contents:

Woman's Day

The Land and the People

Munmdurucu Culture

Women in Myth and Symbol

The Woman's World

Women and Married Life

Women and Social Change

Women and Men

The work of Yolanda and Robert Murphy encourages an understanding of women's lives in the non-Western world. It focuses on gender relations and the social roles women play in the Amazon forest. Yolanda explains how the women rear their children, take care of their husbands, form groups to complete tasks and keep control of their lives even in difficult situations. There are descriptions of bathing in rivers, preparing foods, gardening, feasts, childcare, rubber collection and all sorts of interesting facts about the lives of the Mundurucu people.

While I thought this book would be only focusing on the women, the second chapter surprised me with information about the land and there are a few maps. There is also plenty of information about the men and what they desire, miss about the older cultures and how they even laugh and say that the homes really do belong to the women and in some areas the men live in a "men's house." There is information about hunting trips and the crafts the men work on in their spare time.

The processing of the manioc plant will interest anyone who has ever cooked tapioca. The myths are entertaining and it was interesting to read their version of the Adam and Eve story.

A widely read and beautifully written classic study of Brazil's Mundurucu Indians.

~The Rebecca Review


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