Go and Come Back

Go and Come Back

4.0 4
by Joan Abelove

View All Available Formats & Editions

When the two old white ladies come to live in the Peruvian jungle village of Poincushmana, everyone makes a fuss—everyone but Alicia, who is baffled by the reaction of her tribe, the Isabo. But as the days pass, she too is drawn in—because the ladies (who are really in their twenties, and anthropologists) are stingy, stupid, and fun to watch. They don't


When the two old white ladies come to live in the Peruvian jungle village of Poincushmana, everyone makes a fuss—everyone but Alicia, who is baffled by the reaction of her tribe, the Isabo. But as the days pass, she too is drawn in—because the ladies (who are really in their twenties, and anthropologists) are stingy, stupid, and fun to watch. They don't understand the Isabo. Someone needs to set them straight. And that someone, surprisingly, is Alicia.

Editorial Reviews

Jen Nessel
Abelove's writing is charming....We are left with a lot to think about in our own culture -- why we think the things we think and do the things we do. -- New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a 1998 Best Books citation, PW said, "This exquisite novel introduces readers to a sparkling world hidden deep within the Amazonian jungle." Ages 12-up. (July) n Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Two "old" gringo ladies arrive one day for a year's stay in the Amazon Indian village of adolescent Alicia, through whose eyes we see the humor of villagers and anthropologists adapting to each other. Alicia adopts the ladies who "didn't pierce their noses or their lower lips. They didn't bind their ankles or flatten their foreheads. They did nothing to make themselves beautiful." Sex, lice, worms, and even death are explained matter-of-factly to the two women, as they occur in the daily lives of Alicia and her people. Alicia's voice is wonderful. Abelove, a cultural anthropologist who actually lived in the jungle with a similar people, manages to make her heroine wise and funny and a very real human being. The book is a superb introduction to anthropology, the Amazon, and the clash of cultures.
VOYA - Edward Sullivan
This familiar yet fresh story describes what happens when two well-meaning but thoughtless anthropologists from New York travel to the Peruvian jungle to study the fictitious Isabos tribe. The narrator, a young member of the tribe named Alicia, offers many interesting and often humorous observations of the "two old white ladies," who are actually only in their twenties. The anthropologists are perceived as unclean and ill-mannered because they bathe only once a day and relieve themselves in private. Alicia cannot understand why the women do not do such things sociably, as her people do. The ladies are regarded as stingy because they will not share their supplies, disregarding the Isabos tradition of sharing everything among the tribe. One of the most amusing passages recounts the women's difficulties understanding Isabos views on sex, which are casual, very funny, and described in detail. Alicia is incredulous at the women's ignorance. These are just a few of many, often comical, misunderstandings that arise in the story. As an anthropology student, Abelove lived among Amazonian Indians and is clearly drawing from her experiences. Her depiction of the tribe is neither judgmental nor patronizing, and the two women are also given a balanced portrayal. As bumbling as they are, they are well meaning and sympathetic. Alicia's voice is fresh, lively, and quite charming. Abelove does a superb job of juxtaposing the two radically different cultures, showing the many tensions that can arise and the wonderful mutual insights that can be gained from such encounters. For all its literary merit, however, this is not a book all readers will find appealing. The pace is slow and takes some time to develop, without a great deal of action. The humorous tone, however, does much to keep the story moving and should keep readers engaged. This is not a book for reluctant readers, but those who are motivated will find it enjoyable and entertaining. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
To quote KLIATT's May 1998 review of the hardcover edition: It is important to know immediately that Abelove has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and has spent two years in the Amazon forest with a tribe very much like the one described in this work of fiction. She chooses as narrator a young woman in the tribe who comments on the strange behavior of the two old women (about 30 years old) who come from the outside world to ask questions. This point of view sets up endless opportunities for humor, for poignant misunderstandings, and for gradual learning on both sides of the cultural divide. Because of the narrator, the reader slowly absorbs the worldview of the tribe and begins to see the white women, and then the missionaries who arrive, from a completely different perspective than if the anthropologists were the narrators. Many of the tribe speak some Spanish, and the narrator's Spanish name is Alicia. Alicia explains the people's disbelief at the strange habits of the visitors. Why do they store food and other goods, when they know the villagers could use them? They are amazingly stingy, complain the tribe, who then spend a lot of energy figuring out ways to obtain the women's "extra" possessions. Even Alicia can detect the frustration of the anthropologists who feel the villagers are obsessed with possessions; it takes the arrival of the even-more-stingy missionaries to teach the anthropologists what the villagers have been trying to tell them. And so we readers get a wonderful message about the meaning of ownership in our culture. Many other cultural differences are brought up as the story progresses. Lest you fear there is no real plot here that will grab YA readers, let mesummarize a moving story that unfolds as Alicia rescues an "outsider" baby about to be killed by its violent father. She manages to nurture it with the help of the nursing mothers in the village and she loves little Cami. When a sudden onset of the vomiting and diarrhea disease that kills so many children in the village also attacks and kills little Cami, Alicia is devastated. Her way of grieving points out yet again the great differences in her people's view of life and death and that of the anthropologists. This is a truly wonderful novel, one that seemingly effortlessly teaches more about cultural diversity than students could obtain in a hundred lesson plans. Throughout there is natural humor that arises out of the endless misunderstandings; and best of all is the reader's growing ability to empathize with Alicia and respect her ways. The cover of the paperback features the tattooed face of a young native girl, based on photos by Abelove and Roberta Campos. A KLIATT Editors' Choice Book, an ALA Notable Book, and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1998, Penguin/Puffin, 182p, 18cm, 99-054230, $5.99. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
School Library Journal
In a 1998 Best Books citation, PW said, "This exquisite novel introduces readers to a sparkling world hidden deep within the Amazonian jungle." Ages 12-up. (July) n Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
An anthropologist draws on personal experience for this eye- opening tale of two graduate students learning to live alongside one of the more remote branches of the human family. When "two old white ladies," Margarita and Joanna, settle in her Peruvian jungle village for a year, Alicia regards them with interest and pity. They are so ignorant! They don't know to face upstream when they bathe, they make often-hilarious mistakes with the language, they harbor odd ideas about sex and family—but most of all, they are "stingy," and don't know how to share their wealth of possessions properly. Through Alicia's eyes, readers will watch the outsiders' adjustments to the rhythms and customs they are studying, as they shed much of their physical and cultural baggage (but not their Grateful Dead and Beatles records), and discover wisdom in the Isabo way of life. By the end, while there are some gulfs that cannot be crossed (e.g., when her adopted baby daughter dies, Alicia believes that Joanna and Margarita exhibit unnecessarily prolonged grief), the villagers and visitors achieve a degree of mutual understanding. As in Nancy Farmer's A Girl Named Disaster (1996), readers will be convinced that they've been living in the head of a young woman whose world view is vastly different from their own, but whose values and mores ultimately come to be perfectly understandable. (Fiction. 11-13)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.30(w) x 7.04(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Two old white ladies came to our village late one day, just before dinnertime, at the beginning of the dry season. Everyone else ran down the riverbank to greet them. I stood at the top. I could see them fine from up there. I had better things to do than run to greet old white ladies.

    It was Nonti, my mother's brother's wife's brother, who had brought them up the river. When he docked, the two women stayed in the boat. They sat and smiled. Every so often they would talk to each other in some language none of us could understand. And then they would smile some more. Only their mouths moved. The other parts of their bodies were as still as when there is no wind at all, just before a big rain comes.

    Nonti told us they were called anthropologists. They looked like plain old gringos to me. One was very tall and skinny, with long yellow hair. The other one looked a little more like us, nice and fat and not tall, but her skin was a funny shade of pink. Her hair was not black enough or straight enough. It was long, but she had no bangs. They both wore no beads, no nose rings, no lip plugs, no anklets. They didn't pierce their noses or their lower lips. They didn't bind their ankles or flatten their foreheads. They did nothing to make themselves beautiful.

    Elena, my mother's sister's daughter, hopped right into the boat where the two women were sitting. She pointed to the tall one's head and said, "Mapeu!" Head. They looked at each other and repeated, "Mapeu." But they said it more like "mopu." Elena clapped. "Look at them! This big tall one has hair like thatch.Can you believe it? We could cut her hair off and patch the hole in our roof!"

    Everyone laughed. Even me. Elena always makes me laugh. And then the white women laughed too. But they didn't know what was funny.

    "Elena, how could you jump into their boat?" I asked her when she hopped out and came back up the bank to me. "And point at their heads and talk to them? How could you do it? I wouldn't get that close to them."

    "Oh, Alicia. You're such a worrier. What harm could it do?"

    "You worry about nothing! Like a child!"

    "You should have more fun, Alicia. That old man husband of yours will come back soon enough. Then will be the time to be worried and unhappy."

    "He's not my husband. My father was drunk when he promised me. I have no husband. My father was drunk!" I hated it when anyone said I had a husband. I didn't have one. "And your old husband only brings home tiny birds when he goes out hunting," I told her. "Soon you won't be so nice and fat, if you have to eat only what he brings home."

    Elena laughed and stuck her tongue out at me. Elena would always be fat. Not like me—skinny, ugly me. I would never get fat. No matter how much I ate, how tight I tied my honshe, my ankle bands, how much fat medicine my mother gave me. "Skinny Alicia. Your legs look like two cotton threads hanging from your skirt." Ugly.

    Elena was beautiful—short, fat, with round cheeks and a big hearty laugh. Elena laughed at everything and everybody. She made fun of people and things all the time. She did it so they would like her. It usually worked. Me, I was not so sociable.

    The old ladies sat in Nonti's boat and smiled. What did they want from us?

    "Do they speak anything anyone can understand?" asked Angel, our schoolteacher. Everyone laughed.

    "Nawa, all nawa are the same," muttered old man Chichica. "They all eat snakes and have sex with dogs."

    "They speak Spanish and something else. They came from the New York City," Nonti was saying. "And I have taken them on a trip up and down your Paro River, looking for a village to live in. They want to live here, in Poincushmana."

    Live here, with us! Why would they do such a thing?

    The old ladies sat and smiled.

    Everyone started asking questions at once.

    "Did they bring any liquor with them?"

    "Did they bring pictures of their Jesus?" Swiss missionaries had brought us funny pictures of their god carrying a big, oddly formed piece of firewood, dragging it on his back up a steep hill.

    "Have they come to steal our children?"

    "Have they come to steal the fat from our bodies?"

    "Will they kill us all while we sleep?"

    Old man Ashandi roared with laughter. "They don't look like they could even take care of themselves, let alone steal our children or our lives. Look at the tall one—she is so scrawny. You can practically see through her skin, it is so pale."

    "They look weak, but they're not," Nonti said. "They ask many stupid questions. But they are not mean. They are just incredibly ignorant."

    "They will stay at my house," Papaisi, the headman, announced, and told his daughters to go prepare dinner for the visitors.

    The old ladies stayed in the boat, still sitting, still not moving. They just sat and smiled.

    What were these old women doing here, so far away from their homes, from their parents, far from husbands and children? What could make women travel so far all by themselves? It wasn't until later that we learned the most shocking part—these two women weren't even related to each other. Not in any way. They were what they call friends, amigos in Spanish, no word in Isabo. So they were really alone. One stranger and another stranger. Two strangers. All alone.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Go and Come Back 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
the best I mean you really get into the book its awsome!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would defiantely recommend this book to readers of all ages! I was required to read this book for school and when i finially got around to reading this book i truly felt the meaning of dont judge a book by its color! This book was a very good read and taught me many new things about the native american culture.