The Elephants in the Room

The Elephants in the RoomThe Elephants in the Room
An Excavation
256 pp, 5 x 8, 9781590563878, $20.00 pbk
Lantern Books, {bio}graphies
September 2013

Part of Lantern’s {bio}graphies series, which explores the relationship between human and nonhuman animals through diverse lenses.

Through the lens of my relationships with two Kenyan conservationists—Wangari Maathai and Daphne Sheldrick—The Elephants in the Room surveys a number of prejudices that many of us who are fortunate to be born with the privileges attached to our skin color, sex, and access to resources don’t like to deal with: race, misogyny, and the legacy of empire. In the examination of the two women’s memoirs (Unbowed and Love, Life, and Elephants), both of which were launched following talks at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, these metaphorical elephants in the room are combined with a study of the exploitation of actual elephants on the continent of Africa, and the iterations of memory that are disclosed or hidden in the writing of memoirs and the collecting of bones for museums.

Like elephants themselves, The Elephants in the Room ranges far, analyzing work by Joseph Conrad, Robert Pogue Harrison, Barbara Gowdy, Willard Price, George Orwell, Adam Hochschild, and others.