In the Kingdom of Gorillas by Bill Weber and Amy Vedder

336033Nonfiction — print. Simon & Schuster, 2002. Originally published 2001. 384 pgs. Purchased.

Subtitled “Fragile Species in a Dangerous Land,” this husband-wife duo recounts their efforts to study and protect the gorillas of Rwanda. Weber and Vedder worked along side the famous Dian Fossey and, later despite Fossey’s objections, worked on their own initiatives to save and study the mountain gorilla through the aptly named Mountain Gorilla Project. The book also covers Fossey’s death and, eventually, the Rwandan Genocide.

Back in May of this year, I attempted to read Fossey’s autobiography entitled Gorillas in the Mist but struggled to follow the jumpy, confusing narrative and eventually gave up on trying to read the book. Vedder and Weber do not paint the most flattering picture of Fossey; certainly nothing akin to the image projected by the movie of the same name I watched three years ago. Her personality swings undermined Vedder’s ecological study of gorillas and Weber’s study on economic and cultural pressures on the national park in which the gorillas live. The distaste the authors often express towards Fossey seems to dominate sections of the book.

But I found this really did not distract from the narrative. Instead, I was completely enthralled and riveted by this tale. Honestly, it made me want to chuck it all and run off to live with the gorillas of Rwanda. The authors’ admiration for the gorillas easily moves from the page to the reader; I greatly admire their dedication to establishing an economic incentive for the gorillas as well as spending time educating the children of Rwanda about an animal found almost entirely in their country.

Probably the section I was most impressed with, though, was the Rwandan Genocide. In one moment of the book, Vedder was asked by an American television network to appear on camera and talk about the threat genocide posed to the mountain gorilla. Instead, Vedder offered to talk about the people of Rwanda and refused to appear on camera when the network told her this was not what they (and, presumably, the American people) wanted to hear about. Not only am I glad they devoted so much of their research and book to explaining the history of Rwanda and why the gorillas are so undervalued, but also that they kept the victims of the genocide at the forefront of their dissection of this terrible event.

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