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Beyond Innocence: An Autobiography in Letters The Later Years

Beyond Innocence: An Autobiography in Letters The Later Years

by Dale Peterson (Editor), Jane Goodall

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This second volume of Jane Goodall’s autobiography in letters covers the years of her greatest triumphs and her deepest tragedies. During this time she made many of her most important discoveries about chimpanzee behavior—including the dark discovery that like us, they wage war and commit murder. She gave birth to a son, Grub, but her marriage to his


This second volume of Jane Goodall’s autobiography in letters covers the years of her greatest triumphs and her deepest tragedies. During this time she made many of her most important discoveries about chimpanzee behavior—including the dark discovery that like us, they wage war and commit murder. She gave birth to a son, Grub, but her marriage to his father, Hugo van Lawick, came to an end. When some Stanford University students working with her were kidnapped by guerrillas, she was thrust into an international controversy. She fell in love with and married Derek Bryceson. After surviving a plane crash with him, she realized that her life had been entrusted to her for a reason. A visit to an American laboratory where chimps were injected with HIV made that reason clear, and she began to dedicate herself not just to understanding chimpanzees but to saving them. Derek’s death in 1980 was a terrible blow, but afterward she threw herself even more relentlessly into the battle to save our closest relatives and to repair the health of the planet.
AFRICA IN MY BLOOD told of a young woman finding her life’s work in the place of her dreams. BEYOND INNOCENCE tells of the events that shattered many of those dreams and changed her from a rather private observer to a public crusader.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Further evidence . . . of Goodall's stunning intellectual acuity, broad curiosity, courage, decency, and goodness." (starred) Kirkus Reviews

"A welcome sequel to the critically acclaimed Africa in My Blood . . . her fans will clamor for this book." Publishers Weekly

"Gripping and full of intelligent, rich detail." Newsday

"Offers an insider's perspective . . . Goodall is a charming correspondent." The Washington Post

Both beloved and controversial, naturalist Jane Goodall has devoted her adult life to working with chimpanzees. This collection of letters has an intimacy that not even an autobiography could match, presenting Goodall in the throes of decisions and upheavals, not least of which is the death in 1980 of her spouse and helpmate, Derrick Bryceson. A fascinating inside view of a remarkable woman in her golden years.
In August 1963, readers of National Geographic magazine were introduced to the writings of Jane Goodall, a slender, photogenic blonde whose childhood dream of living freely among wild animals had brought her to East Africa’s Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve three years earlier. It was a spunky Goodall who greeted readers, an enthusiastic and decidedly self-assured young woman who gave the chimps she observed names like Mrs. Maggs and Mr. McGregor, and who, in subsequent National Geographic articles, would begin to address her readers as old friends, keeping them up-to-date on her studies at Cambridge, for example, or noting her own "rather important engagement" to photographer Hugo van Lawick.

In the years to come, Goodall’s zeal for sharing the details of her life and work in the wilds of Africa would show itself in a variety of ways. In addition to her magazine pieces, there were her books (In the Shadow of Man, Through a Window and Reason of Hope, among others), her film productions, her lectures and, of course, the literally hundreds upon hundreds of letters she wrote to family, friends and colleagues. Beyond Innocence, the second volume of Goodall’s "autobiography in letters," picks up where Africa in My Blood left off, with the thirty-two-year-old Goodall at the height of her powers. Fearless as ever, she was devoted to her work, her dreams and her chimps.

Edited, organized and knowledgeably introduced by Dale Peterson, the letters included in this volume span the period of time (1966-1999) during which Goodall gives birth to her only son (whom she nicknames, somewhat disconcertingly, Grub), divorces her firsthusband and quickly marries her second, only to lose him to a rapidly spreading cancer. It is also a time during which she watches many of the chimps she loves die atrocious deaths. Professionally, these are years of discovery and advocacy, as Goodall furthers her groundbreaking research, brings Stanford students to her reserve, argues passionately on behalf of animals exploited for the purposes of research and collaborates with international statesmen and celebrities (including then-Secretary of State James Baker and Michael Jackson) to protect the land she loves.

It was indeed a frantic time, and the letters collected here attest to that freneticism. There is more reporting than reflecting, more dashed-off itineraries than truly intimate revelations, more news flashes than contemplative digressions, little expressed interest in whatever her correspondents might themselves have sent her way. A good number of the letters begin with an apology—a forgotten birthday, a delay in correspondence, the anticipated hastiness of the note itself—and repeatedly we find Goodall pounding away in the middle of the night, her pile of work growing ever larger, her epistolary duties threatening to overwhelm.

"If I don’t get around to writing a long newsy letter, which I should after being such a bad correspondent, you can imagine me, over the next week, writing two papers, one article and 56-55 letters now, when this is done!" Goodall writes at one point to her friends Adrienne and Jerry. "This is the 6th letter I have penned today," she writes at another time, to friends Barbara and Jeff. "That leaves approx. 50 more!! Oh for a secretary!! I keep finding letters all over the house, in weird drawers. Where I shoved them so that they were out of sight and I felt less guilty during those past hectic months!"

A fan of the exclamation mark, the adjective "super" and the sign-off "tons and tons of love," Goodall reserves her greatest passion and most considered language for the animals that have lured her to the jungle. She shows where her heart steadfastly lies when she describes time spent in the company of JoJo, a laboratory chimp whose "eyes looked into mine—puzzled (I read that in his direct gaze). Why was he here? Why must he stay there, month after month? He was so gentle. I would NEVER let a zoo chimp hold my hand. He held mine, groomed it, was so grateful that I stopped to pass the time of day." It is this exchange with the laboratory chimp that Goodall—by then both a divorcée and a widow, a guide who had once nearly lost a group of students to a horrifying guerrilla kidnapping, a mother who had experienced terribly long absences from her son—describes as the most excruciating moment in her life. "I have never, ever, been through such an emotionally draining experience," she writes about the encounter.

With Beyond Innocence, Dale Peterson has done an extraordinary job—sifting through the letters, fitting them into a frame, endowing the pages with a narrative thread despite all that the letters do not say. And yet, throughout it all, Goodall’s humanity remains elusive. The intimacy engendered in the National Geographic stories is rarely here; the magnetic power of this pioneering primatologist is slightly off the stage. The letters explain more than they elucidate. They provide the facts at breakneck speed, leaving little opportunity for transcendence.
—Beth Kephart

Library Journal
Readers of Africa in My Blood: An Autobiography in Letters might think that Goodall had already done it all, but this new volume reveals how much there was to come: dedication to protecting as well as studying chimpanzees, plus personal events that included the birth of a son, the end of a marriage, and new love found and tragically lost. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Covering the years 1966 to 1999, this second volume of letters from chimpanzee researcher Goodall presents a memoir-like portrait of the years during which Goodall was to achieve worldwide prominence as an advocate for the animals she studied. The letters recount Goodall's scientific studies, the death of her husband from cancer, the birth of her son, the polio epidemic that swept Tanzania in the 1960s, and other events. Some contextualizing information is provided. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
The second of a two-volume autobiography (Reason for Hope, 1999) in letters that allows readers to enter the daily life of famed primatologist Goodall. To label Goodall a primatologist feels particularly limiting after reading these letters, for they reveal her as an astute behaviorist of many creatures (including her husbands), a wonderful mother, someone deeply moved by (and moved to act on) the cruelty inflicted on humans and animals, a reveler in life, and a survivor. Editorial notes from Peterson set the stage, and allow for an understanding of Goodall's more elliptical remarks. The correspondence ushers us into Goodall's everyday world-sometimes in Europe and America, but often in the field, where her love of her son Grub melds with her love of such places as Arusha, in Tanzania: "Grub and I have spent our nights at the ‘Golden Grass Den.' In the evening the setting sun gives every dried blade a gleam of gold, brilliant as metal." Although chimpanzees have been the focus of her lifelong work, Goodall's interests are vast ("We have been doing a number of tests on Egyptian Vultures in Ngorongoro Crater with reference to their stone throwing behavior"), and her reflections are broad-ranging and wide. Although she speaks of her husbands with considerable reserve (it was during this period in her life that she divorced Hugo van Lawick and lost Derek Bryceson to cancer), her descriptions of animals are vibrant and arresting-speaking of one of her chimps who was captured for medical research, she observes, "The easiest and most common way to acquire a baby chimpanzee in Africa is to shoot the mother and then pull off the clinging infant." Further evidence, if any were needed by now,of Goodall's stunning intellectual acuity, broad curiosity, courage, decency, and goodness.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.13(d)

Meet the Author

Dale Peterson is the coauthor with Jane Goodall of Visions of Caliban (a New York Times Notable Book and a Library Journal Best Book) and the editor of her two books of letters, Africa in My Blood and Beyond Innocence . His other books include The Deluge and the Ark , Chimpanzee Travels , Storyville USA , Eating Apes , and (with Richard Wrangham) Demonic Males . They have been distinguished as an Economist Best Book, a Discover Top Science Book, a Bloomsbury Review Editor's Favorite, a Village Voice Best Book, and a finalist for the PEN New England Award and the Sir Peter Kent Conservation Book Prize in England. He resides in Massachusetts.

JANE GOODALL continues to study and write about primate behavior. She founded the Gombe Stream Research Center in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, and the Jane Goodall Institute for Wild Life Research, Education, and Conservation to provide ongoing support for field research on wild chimpanzees. She is the author of many books, including two autobiographies in letters, Africa in My Blood and Beyond Innocence . Today Dr. Goodall spends much of her time lecturing, sharing her message of hope for the future, and encouraging young people to make a difference in their world.

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